Tories delay plan to deal with nuisance callers yet again

Long awaited plans to crack down on nuisance callers have been delayed by Tory ministers yet again, 17 months after they were first announced.

Digital minister Margot James is to announce today that measures to make company directors personally liable for up to £500,000 in fines will be put out for consultation.

The move was originally announced in October 2016, when Ministers announced the crackdown would take effect in Spring 2017.

The new measures would mean companies and directors could be hit with up to £1 million in penalties in the worst cases.

Branding nuisance calls a “blight on society”, Ms James said the government was determined to stamp them out.

Currently, only businesses themselves are liable for the fines, which are issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Some directors try to avoid paying the penalties by declaring bankruptcy, only to set up shop again under a new name.

The UK data watchdog revealed last week it had recovered just over half (54 per cent) of the £17.8 million in fines issued for nuisance calls since 2010, as companies go into liquidation to avoid big penalties.

The plan was originally announced in 2016, when Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, then Digital Minister, also branded nuisance calls a “blight on society.”

He said it would be introduced in spring 2017, but it’s understood the policy was shelved after Theresa May called the snap election.

The Tories’ 2017 manifesto committed to introducing the Data Protection bill, which updated the Government’s plans to deal with personal data.

Ministers decided to delay the crackdown on nuisance callers until after the bill had passed through Parliament, which completed last week.

But now the plans have been put out for consultation, which means they won’t be introduced until at least August.

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Ms James said: “Nuisance calls are a blight on society and we are determined to stamp them out.

“For too long a minority of company directors have escaped justice by liquidating their firms and opening up again under a different name.

“We want to make sure the Information Commissioner has the powers she needs to hold rogue bosses to account and put an end to these unwanted calls.“

Deputy Information Commissioner Steve Wood said: ”We welcome these proposals from the Government to make directors themselves responsible for nuisance marketing.

“We have been calling for a change to the law for a while to deter those who deliberately set out to disrupt people with troublesome calls, texts and emails. These proposed changes will increase the tools we have to protect the public.”

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