New laws that make it easier to punish companies who make nuisance calls and texts will “make a difference”, the privacy watchdog has said.
New legislation means the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will just have to prove that a company has committed a serious breach of the law in order to issue a fine.
Previously it had to prove that those responsible for nuisance calls or spam texts had caused “substantial damage or substantial distress” - which the ICO said was “not easy for us to do”.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said: “We’ve been pushing for this change for two years, and we’re sure it will make a difference.
“The change will help us to make more fines stick, and more fines should prove a real deterrent to the people making these calls.”
But he added: “We can only fine companies that we can prove committed serious breaches of the law after the rules changed, so we can’t fine companies for something they did last week.
“We’ll be collecting evidence for investigations under the new rules from today.
“That means we need people to report calls and texts to us. We can then start investigating cases, and ultimately issuing penalties.”
The law allows companies to make marketing phone calls without prior permission, but they must first check the Telephone Preference Service, which lists individuals who have opted out of such contact.
Companies need permission before they can send marketing text messages, and should always give details of how the recipient can opt out of any future messages. The ICO received 175,330 reports of nuisance calls and texts last year.
It issued £360,000 of fines in the year to March.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “Unwanted calls disrupt the lives of millions every day. Regulators must send a crystal clear message to firms that nuisance calling is unacceptable by using these new powers to maximum effect.”