The First-Tier Information Rights Tribunal (“tribunal”) has increased the amount of a fine imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) on Reactiv Media Limited by 50%.
The ICO fined Reactiv Media £50,000 for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (“PECR”), by making unsolicited communications to individuals for marketing purposes without their prior consent, after the Telephone Preference Service and the ICO received more than 600 complaints about Reactiv Media’s unsolicited marketing telephone calls.
On appeal to the tribunal, Reactiv Media argued that there was no evidence that their communications had caused any substantial damage or distress. The tribunal rejected the appeal, siting Reactiv Media’s “culture of denial and minimisation of the breach, weak governance of the company and a tendency to blame others rather than accept responsibility”. The tribunal did not believe that lessons had been learned since the imposition of the penalty.
Further, the tribunal re-reviewed the financial affairs of Reactiv Media, and considered it was more ‘robust’ than the ICO had estimated. Based on this and ‘clearer evidence of aggravating factors’, the tribunal decided unanimously that this warranted a higher penalty of £75,000.
Following the removal earlier this year of the requirement that the ICO has to show substantial damage or distress in order to issue a fine, the ICO has hinted that it will more readily issue fines to deter unsolicited marketing activities. Besides the financial implication of a fine of up to £500,000, organisations should be wary of the potential reputational damage a breach of the PECR could cause. With the ICO clamping down on non-compliance, businesses need to ensure that they have the necessary consents from individuals they wish to contact for direct marketing purposes.
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