‘Despicable’ companies fined for ‘predatory’ and ‘coerced’ calls to sell unnecessary insurance to the elderly | Science and technology news
Five companies that deliberately targeted older people with “predatory” and “forced” marketing calls to sell them unnecessary insurance have been fined more than £400,000 by the UK data protection regulator.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said the companies bought lists of marketing data from people aged 60 or older who were homeowners and had landline phones.
Some of the victims of the calls suffered from dementia, according to the ICO, adding that the evidence suggested the companies may have used the same marketing list to target their victims.
Some victims were found to have had direct debits to more than a dozen companies and lost thousands of pounds on services and insurance callers knew they didn’t need.
Hundreds of thousands of forced calls are being made by similar companies, and the ICO said it will investigate the practice further.
Victims, including some too old to mind their own affairs, were nauseated by the intrusive callers, who were sometimes given desperate victims’ bank card details just to be left alone.
Who was punished
Domestic Support Ltd, based in Littlehampton, West Sussex, made 69,133 unsolicited marketing calls while unlawfully identifying itself by various trade names.
Home Sure Solutions Ltd, based in Hove, East Sussex, made 229,483 unsolicited marketing calls that were known to be potentially older.
Seaview Brokers Ltd, based in Chichester, West Sussex, made 4,737 unsolicited marketing calls.
London-based UK Appliance Cover Ltd made 39,167 unsolicited and aggressive marketing calls, which the ICO said were aimed at vulnerable individuals for financial gain, and failed to provide any of the services said to have been sold.
London-based UK Platinum Home Care Services Ltd made 412,556 unsolicited solicitation calls to people the company knew were potentially elderly homeowners.
Investigations are ongoing
As well as the five companies fined today, the regulator continues to probe a number of other companies it believes are operating in the same way.
The ICO put together its investigation aided by numerous complaints filed by the public his online form.
Julie in Yorkshire said her older brother was receiving a large number of nuisance calls asking her to look at his finances, which he was concerned about.
“Almost immediately, I noticed a lot of monthly debits for home appliance insurance policies. Some have been duplicate payments for the same goods and there have been one-off payments worth £300,” she said.
“I was disgusted that my brother was ripped off and attacked by annoying callers. I made an appointment with his bank and luckily they refunded me the lost money.
“I also complained to Action Fraud about these companies. It is extremely upsetting that my older brother was exploited and manipulated by these rogue companies in his own home.”
Information Commissioner criticizes despicable companies
Information Commissioner John Edwards told Sky News: “These are predatory actions that take advantage of the most vulnerable in society.
“To be honest, to call up a person who may be older and who may have dementia and sell them products of dubious value at inflated prices is really despicable,” he added.
In a statement, Mr Edwards said: “It is clear from the complaints we have received that people have felt scared and concerned about these companies’ aggressive tactics, sometimes giving out their financial details just so they could hang up the phone.
“This is unacceptable and clearly exploitative. It is only right that we act hard and fast to punish the companies responsible with all our might.
“Companies making similar harassing calls and harming people can expect a strong response from my office,” added Mr. Edwards.
“I encourage anyone who is being harassed by other fraudulent operators, or knows a family member or friend who is doing so, to report it to the ICO and we will step in to protect the public from these invasive calls.”
Advice for citizens
The ICO says to help friends and family stop predatory marketing calls, people can:
• Register landline and mobile numbers as well the telephone preference service for free.
• Report any harassing calls you continue to receive to the ICO using Online nuisance call reporting tool.