Dinner, Interrupted – could this be the end for nuisance marketing calls and emails?

Almost everyone has experienced the irritation of the phone ringing just as you are sitting down to eat. You then scramble to answer it, only to discover that you are being interrupted on the off chance that you are interested in [double glazing] [consolidating your debts] [changing your gas/electricity/phone/internet service provider] (delete as appropriate).

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will soon have increased powers to investigate the companies making these nuisance marketing calls and also the companies behind the unwanted emails which consistently clog up your inbox. The ICO will also be able to fine companies up to £500,000 in the most serious cases; a sum which may prove to be a more effective deterrent to smaller marketing companies than it is to the corporate giants which collected your personal data in the first place.

The changes, which come into force on 25 May 2011, also introduce the requirement for telecommunications companies and internet service providers to notify the ICO and their customers in certain circumstances when a personal data breach occurs. The ICO will have the power to audit these companies to ensure compliance with the regulations.

These changes are unlikely to herald the end of unwanted, intrusive marketing campaigns. However, as technology is now allowing increasingly targeted advertising, perhaps there will soon be a better chance of receiving that phone call when you are actually in need of new windows.

This alert was written by Simon Halberstam (partner) and Lauren Evans (trainee solicitor) at SIMONS MUIRHEAD & BURTON LLP. If you need assistance, please contact Simon Halberstam on 020 3206 2781 or simon.halberstam@smab.co.uk