Bosses of companies which undertake unsolicited nuisance calls to consumers could be fined up to half a million pounds under new Government proposals, with the aim of preventing them evading fines and punishment.

It was revealed by the UK data protection watchdog that whilst £17.8 million in fines had been issued for nuisance calls since 2010, only 54 percent of them had been recovered, as companies enter liquidation to avoid large penalties.

As only businesses themselves are liable for fines of up to £500,000, it has been reported that some directors try to escape paying penalties by declaring bankruptcy before opening back up under a different name and continuing the practice.

The news comes following high-profile cases in the mobility industry of companies such as Arise Mobility that was found to be using cold calling practices to contact customers, breaching the British Healthcare Trades Association’s (BHTA) Code of Practice.

After being called to a disciplinary regarding by the Association regarding the allegations of unethical selling, Arise Mobility resigned from the BHTA before entering voluntary liquidation.

With an estimated 3.9 billion nuisance calls and texts made to British consumers in 2017, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James vowed to curb the problem.

“Nuisance calls are a blight on society and we are determined to stamp them out,” she said.

“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.”

Currently, the Insolvency Service can disqualify people from boardroom positions – with failure to adhere to the ruling leading to a prison sentence – however the new Government proposals aims to provide the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) with powers to hold directors personally responsible with further fines of up to £500,000.

Andrew Barker, Interim Director General at BHTA welcomed the proposal: “BHTA’s Code of Practice bans our members from all cold calling, including by telephone and we recognise the distress that nuisance calls can cause.”

The new proposals are part of a number of measures the Government have introduced to tackle those breaching direct marketing rules, including making it easier for regulators to issue fines, forcing companies to display their contact numbers and giving funds to Trading Standards to help install call blocking devices in the homes of vulnerable people.

Steve Wood, Deputy Commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office, 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.”

According to the Ofcom, the measures are working, with the total number of complaints made to the ICO and Ofcom about nuisance calls falling for the second consecutive year.

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