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Energy Firm Slapped With $65,000 Fine For Making 1.5 Million Nuisance Calls ( 67

A UK firm offering people energy-saving solutions has been fined after making almost 1.5 million unsolicited calls without checking if the numbers were registered on the UK's opt-out database. From a report: Southampton-based Home Logic used a dialler system to screen the telephone numbers that it planned to call against the Telephone Preference Service register, which allows people to opt out of receiving marketing calls. This system was unavailable for at least 90 days out of the 220 between April 2015 and March 2016 due to technical issues -- but that didn't stop Home Logic from continuing to make phone calls. Some 1,475,969 were made in that time. And, as a result, Blighty's data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office received 133 complaints about the firm from people who had registered with the TPS and did not expect to be picking up the phone to marketeers. It ruled that the biz had breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and duly fined it 50,000 pound ($64,500).
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Energy Firm Slapped With $65,000 Fine For Making 1.5 Million Nuisance Calls

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  • by barrywalker ( 1855110 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @07:24PM (#55060193)
    We call that, "the cost of doing business"
    • Yeah, it's really not bad, about 3p per call, probably less than the cost of the call itself. So now you just add a few p per target and you can spam to your heart's delight, all you need to do is make sure you make millions rather than thousands of calls so the amortised cost is low enough.
  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @07:33PM (#55060225) Homepage Journal
    $65,000! That is like 10 hours of profit. That will show them!
    • Not much of a slap, really. More of a tickle. A vague itching, maybe.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously, how much "profit" do you think companies make doing this kind of thing?

      The company in question sells "home energy solutions" - think insulation, new windows, solar panels, that kind of thing. For that kind of capital expenditure, the conversion rate for cold calling will be well below 1% - so those 1.5 million calls will translates to maybe 15,000 leads, and maybe one-tenth that number of actual sales.

      It's a reasonably competitive market, so margins won't be that fat to begin with. Now let's thin

  • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @07:34PM (#55060235)

    Wouldn't it make more sense to fine £50,000 *plus* 10x the financial gain from those calls? If 1,500,000 calls generate more than £50,000 in profit (over say 2 years), there is no incentive to obey the law. Make it hurt to defraud the public, make it financially debilitating to commit financial crimes, and tadaa, you will see a decline. When companies get slapped on the wrist for lying, destroying the environment, scamming the elderly, or stealing money from the poor, they will continue doing so. This isn't rocket surgery.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      OR! we use the same idea, but instead calculate the fine based on the way RIAA lawyers estimate monetary damages, which would bring the actual total to... [math]
      417.58 trillion dollars and thirty-seven cents. Probably. Close enough I guess.

    • I'm afraid that seeking the "profit" from a spammer's records is much like seeking an artist's share of the profits from a movie or a concert tour. There may have been quite a lot of money involved, but somehow it would not show up as "profit" in any visible accounting.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      There should be jail for companies. Some countries have it already. The company can be ordered to shut down and suspend all business operations, except paying staff, for a number of days.

    • Almost makes you wonder if the fine is just for show.

  • Maybe a better punishment would have been to send them to Wipers with the next unit scheduled to go over the top. They'll never do that again.
  • by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @07:48PM (#55060301) Homepage Journal

    Opt out list are the grabbing the pig by the wrong leg.
    We could have gone with Opt In lists.
    But the best way to go about it is to have a way to set your own phone line to not accept telemarketing calls. Then when a telemarketer makes a call to that line, the phone switch simply drops that call. Marketers with an exsisting relation ship could over ride that by sending a counter signal that yes, they have a signed permission slip from the lessor of that number to make a marketing call. If they use the over ride signal, and the lessor doesn't agree, the lessor hangs up, dials a #XX number to say "Oh, no they didn't!" Then the caller has to provide evidence they did have permission. If they don't then it's a $10,000 fine per each call. And after 20 calls in 24 hours of folks say "Oh no they didn't!", the marketer's line gets automatically shut down.

    End of unsolicited telemarketing problem.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Much simpler, if the called party hangs up and dials *38 (*FU), the calling party's line can only dial 911 for the next 5 minutes.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Meh, all they actually need to do is end spoofing and all dialing problems are solvable.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      That requires all telemarketers to register and use phone lines marked as for telemarketing calls. It will never work.

      The best solution is for people to simply stop accepting calls from numbers they don't know. Phones should by default only ring if the number is in the user's phone book, otherwise it gets logged and declined.

      At first that will cause some problems as legitimate companies adapt to using email and the postal system instead of calling. Of course, customers can always call them, or whitelist the

  • I'll bet $65,000 is cheap for all the extra profit they generated
  • by Presence Eternal ( 56763 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @08:32PM (#55060485)

    Can't speak for the UK, but here in the US Do Not Call lists allow calls from pollsters, """nonprofits""" and politicians. They're more like 100% free Do Rip Me Off lists. Here's some numbers we guarantee are real and the certainty you aren't competing with people who sell actual products.

    I bet if you asked people, they'd say they'd prefer an inverted list that allows telemarketers but forbids all the others. I mean, if a telemarketer tricks me into an extended vehicle warranty, I at least get some kind of extended vehicle warranty. I can't say I felt as good about subsidizing the latest Wounded Warrior rootbeer can pyramid party.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What ever happened to the dignity of large corporations? They're supposed to pretend to act decently.

  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Tuesday August 22, 2017 @03:22AM (#55061541)
    Take a moment and think about the nature of punishments as they are handed down to first individuals and then to corporations. I think you'll find that across the western world, punishments to private individuals continue to increase [larger fines, longer prison sentences] whilst the punishments for corporations are becoming weaker and even less effective.

    It is common practice to hear politicians [particularly around election time] to start spouting phrases such as "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", or other similarly empty sound-bites. It is common to see politicians and prosecutors hand down the most egregious punishments to individuals, such as the charges put before Aaron Swartz, for example. [ When Aaron was accused of downloading publicly available academic journals from JSTOR whilst studying at MIT, he was challenged with a $1 Million fine and 35 years in prison...]... Compare the harm between Aaron's actions and those of Home Logic.

    The only way to stop companies from abusing laws prohibiting auto-dial systems and un-solicited spam would be simple legislation. For example, un-solicited telephone calls and emails should be met with a simple 3-strikes policy:-

    Strike 1 - first offence - take the total compensation value paid to all directors and senior staff of the company in the previous tax year and fine those individuals exactly 35% of the amount they were paid. To determine which individuals are to be included in the fine, bell-curve the salaries paid to every employee of the company and select the top 20% by income.

    Strike 2 - second offence - repeat the compensation calculation, but this time increase the penalty to 50% of total income for the top 30% of earners. Additionally, fine the company an amount equal to 30% of pre-tax profits declared in the previous 3 years.

    Strike 3 - third offence - immediate, mandatory jail time for the CEO, COO, CFO and all board level directors, for a minimum term of 3 years. Fine the company 60% of pre-tax profits declared in the previous 5 years. Bar every existing director from every holding a directorship again, in any company, for life. Bar every existing director from ever holding public [elected] office, for life.

    I guarantee you that if those were the penalties handed down to the companies that repeatedly and flagrantly abuse the laws, that abuse would stop, overnight. The only way to get the attention of these people is to hit them where it hurts.
  • One-and-a-half million spam calls and only 133 people complained? That's pathetic, like the fine. I am in the TPS register and complain to them about every spam call I get, if I can ascertain who it is from by playing along to get their details (not always easy). I've never heard of the TPS ever doing anything whatever before, so even $65,000 is something.

    I hardly get any spam calls now as I live in a rural area. When I was in a city I got far more, which seems to show that most spammers just work through

    • An impulse in a spammer's brain results in your action and wasted time?
      Sounds like you're remotely controlled to me. Maybe that's why more don't complain?

  • Share an MP3? 150,000$ per infringement

    Give 1.5 million phone calls to people on do-not-call list? 50K fine.

    That sounds balanced.
  • How can something like this have such a long down time and how are firms supposed to cope with this? Just put their businesses on hold?
  • Should have been 1.5 million £.

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.