Bolton-based Direct Assist penalised for nuisance calls after 801 complaints

Angry phone call

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined personal injury claims management company (CMC) Direct Assist £80,000 for making nuisance calls.

The Bolton-based CMC has now gone into liquidation, and the ICO intends to register as an unsecured creditor to obtain the fine.

Between January 2013 and July 2014 the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registered 801 complaints about Direct Assist, which offered access to solicitors for personal injury insurance claims.

Every complain came from someone who was registered with TPS and who had not given permission for the company to call them.

One complainant, who was elderly and deaf, said the conduct of the callers left them in fear of answering the phone that they relied on to maintain contact with family. Direct Assist continued to call despite being given this information.

One household reported being called 470 times by the company, while another complainant was told by Direct Assist that they were likely to be called for three years until they made a claim, despite repeated requests for their details to be removed.

An ICO investigation discovered Direct Assist instructed its staff to deliberately use phone numbers from lists that included people on the TPS.

The company also had no formal staff policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR). The business even claimed the calls were being made by someone else using their company name.

OCO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “Direct Assist’s behaviour shows a blatant disregard for the law and the customers they tried to contact.

“Even though the TPS contacted them 525 times to warn them about complaints being made they continued to market their services through unsolicited phone calls.

“This penalty sends a clear message that this type of irresponsible marketing is totally unacceptable. Companies need to think about their responsibilities, the law and the consequences if they try to break it.”