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Energy company hit with record £200,000 cold-calling fine

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A watchdog has fined a green energy firm £200,000 for cold-calling consumers, the largest nuisance call penalty ever imposed. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) made in excess of six million automated calls offering ‘free’ solar panels as part of the government’s ‘Green Deal’ initiative.

Regulations governing marketing calls state that an organisation should have people’s permission to make automated calls, but the ICO found this wasn’t the case, with the energy company admitting it didn’t even know what the rules were.

“This company’s ignorance of the law is beyond belief,” said Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO.

“It didn’t even bother to find out what the rules were, and its badly thought out marketing campaign made people’s lives a misery.”

Between October and December 2014, the ICO received 242 complaints regarding HELM’s activities. One complainant stated they were waiting for news of a terminally ill family member and couldn’t ignore the phone, and felt powerless against the automated calls.

Another said the calls brought back memories of a phone call informing them their young grandchild had passed away. Another said they felt like their home had been invaded, as the answer machine filled up with calls from the company.

The ICO investigation determined the calls were also misleading, as the solar panels were not free – as was implied by the recorded message.

Eckersley added: “The monetary penalty is significant because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.

“It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO’s website.”

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