On 23 October 2016, the Department for Culture Media and Sport (“DCMS“) confirmed plans to introduce personal liability for directors in relation to “nuisance calls”.
Under the proposals, directors could each be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO“) which, when combined with existing company penalties of up to £500,000, would create a potential maximum company and director penalty of up to £1,000,000. The proposals will be implemented through amendments to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 which will be set out in the draft Digital Economy Bill currently being considered by Parliament.
The Digital Economy Bill seeks to improve internet connectivity and provide protections for internet users through a range of measures, including further regulation of direct marketing through a new Direct Marketing Code. Although it is not clear how such measures would interact with any proposed amendments to the ePrivacy Directive currently being considered in Europe.
The DCMS’ statement follows a Public Bill Committee Hearing on 13 October 2016 to discuss the latest draft of the Digital Economy Bill. At the hearing the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, stated she would support moves to introduce director liability for nuisance calls. Although the ICO can currently impose fines of up to £500,000 on a company that seriously breaches data protection laws, and has issued almost £4 million in fines in the past year alone, a large portion of this money is not recovered due to companies going into liquidation. However, alternative companies often reappear soon afterwards with the same directors. Denham agreed that an amendment to the Bill would be helpful to avoid these occurrences.
The Public Bill Committee stage concluded at the beginning of November 2016, with the aim of the Digital Economy Bill receiving Royal Assent by the end of Spring 2017.
To view a copy of the statement, please click here.