The Government have taken firm action against nuisance calls, which cause untold stress and anxiety to older people and vulnerable groups in particular. In December last year, we introduced new rules. Directors of companies found to be in breach of those laws against nuisance calls can now be held personally liable and face fines of up to half a million pounds. That liability will extend to directors of companies that have gone into liquidation.
Like your constituents, Mr Speaker, my constituents are fed up to the back teeth of receiving scam phone calls from companies trying to get people’s savings, forcing them to get their pensions transferred and almost any other telemarketing. It is good news that the Government have taken action to set the rules so that the Information Commissioner can take action, but what are they going to do to ensure that the rules are enforced, so that company directors lose the ill-gotten gains acquired as a result of these activities?
The Information Commissioner has powers to require companies to address unlawful practices and issue monetary penalties, including, now, against directors. Figures available for the past 12 months show that fines worth over £1.9 million have been issued to 23 companies. We have also increased substantially the resources available to the Information Commissioner’s Office, so she will be able to pursue more irresponsible and reckless companies.
Bearing in mind the fact that nuisance calls make up some 40% of calls to elderly residents, have the Minister and the Department given consideration to putting in place a system whereby people have to opt in to allow their number to be shared?
Opting in is a potential solution. In the past 12 months, we have extended opt-in as the means of controlling calls from pensions providers and claims management companies. I trust this will make a significant difference as they are a significant proportion of the problem.