The bosses of spam marketing companies, Lad Media and The Lead Experts have been handed four and six year bans on forming companies, after they broke direct marketing laws.

Aaron Stalberg has been handed a six year ban after his business was found to have made more than 115,000 automated marketing calls to members of the public who had not given consent for them to do so. The Information Commissioners Office issued Stalberg  with a £70,000 fine for the cold-calls which were during October 2017.

Stalberg and his firm refused to pay the fine, nor did they appeal the ICO’s original decision, so the regulator handed the case to the Insolvency Service, which handed Stalberg a six year ban on being a company director.

David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service said: “Despite the company protesting they had made only a small number of calls, investigations by the ICO confirmed that they had made more than 100,000 unsolicited calls, amounting to a serious breach of the regulations and people’s privacy.”

In a similar case, an investigation by the ICO found that Lad Media had sent more than 393,000 text messages to members of the public, this included people on the TPS register. Keith Hancock and his company Lad Media received over 100 complaints about unsolicited text messages from the firm.

Lad Media failed to pay the £20,000 fine and in April last year, the company closed their doors. Following referrals from the ICO, further investigations were conducted by the Insolvency Service to assess Keith Hancock’s activities and how he had contributed to cause Lad Media to breach direct marketing regulations.

Investigators concluded that Keith Hancock played a central role and issued him with a four year ban on directly or indirectly becoming involved, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.

David Brooks, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said: “There is clear guidance on the internet about what communications you can send to people when it comes to marketing so there is no excuse about not knowing what your responsibilities are.

Keith Hancock clearly failed to ensure Lad Media carried out sufficient checks on who was being sent direct marketing, even if it was done by a third party, and thanks to the joint work with the ICO, we have secured a ban appropriate for the seriousness of the offence”.

Andy Curry, ICO Investigations Group Manager, said: “By working closely with The Insolvency Service we have been successful in stopping the unscrupulous activities of company directors like Keith Hancock who cause upset and distress to millions of people who are on the receiving end of this kind of illegal marketing activity.

Our powers to protect the public from companies like theirs making nuisance calls and sending spam texts, have recently been made stronger than ever as we can now make directors and managers of the companies responsible personally liable for fines of up to £500,000. This will help stop them closing down one rogue company and setting up in business again”.

What to do if you receive a nuisance call.

People who receive nuisance marketing calls, emails and texts is to ask the company to remove their details from their lists, read the small print and be careful about ticking boxes which could give them consent to contact you. People can also report cold calls or texts that either played a recorded voice message or from a real person, to the ICO. The ICO will use the information you provide to investigate and take action against companies responsible.

What is a nuisance call ?

A nuisance call or cold-call is an unsolicited telephone call from a business seeking to attract new customers. Cold Calling is not illegal, however there are restrictions on how and when a marketing cold-call should be made. The new GDPR regulations along with the ICO’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations tighten up these restrictions, and as from 25 May 2018, any organisation involved in cold calling will have to abide by strict guidelines or face hefty fines. The only instance where you can be lawfully cold-called is if you have given consent before being contacted.

In addition, organisations cannot call numbers that are registered with the TPS. The TPS (Telephone Preference Service) is a free service. It is the official opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is forbidden for organisations to make telephone contact with anyone registered on the TPS database.

To register with the TPS follow this https://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/number_type.html

You can also log a complaint with the ICO here: https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/nuisance-calls-and-messages/

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