Privacy Advisor

UK—ICO and Ofcom Set Action Plan To Tackle Nuisance Telephone Calls

August 27, 2013

By Brian Davidson, CIPP/E

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Ofcom have published a joint action plan to tackle nuisance telephone calls and help protect consumers.

The ICO and Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, share responsibilities for taking action against organisations that carry out nuisance telephone calls and messages. The ICO is responsible for tackling organisations that make unwanted marketing calls or send unsolicited marketing SMS messages, and Ofcom is responsible for actions against organiations that undertake silent and abandoned calls.

The plan, published on July 31, follows recent activity—including enforcement action undertaken by the ICO—undertaken by both organisations and represents a formalised joint commitment to work in partnership on a series of initiatives covering a range of areas. It also sets out work carried out by the ICO and Ofcom in recent months to address nuisance calls. Important priorities for both organisations in the forthcoming period include:

  • Ongoing targeted enforcement action against noncompliant organisations. This follows, for example, recent monetary penalties issued by the ICO against companies across the UK for unwanted marketing calls and the setup of an “online reporting portal,” which the public can use to send the ICO full details of any unwanted marketing calls and texts;
  • improving call-and-message tracing processes to track down those responsible for making nuisance calls;
  • An assessment of the impact of the current Telephone Preference Service—a central database that allows individuals to register their telephone number to signify that they do not wish to receive marketing calls and which organisations are required by law to consult before undertaking telephone marketing campaigns, and
  • Publication of revised industry guidance on marketing “consent” to include detailed advice on appropriate methods of consent, the limitations of indirect third-party consent, time limits and the requirement for records of consent.

The ICO and Ofcom are expected to publish an update on progress of this plan in early 2014. The joint action plan is available here.

Brian Davidson, CIPP/E, is a privacy and information law advisor at Field Fisher Waterhouse, LLP.