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Data Protection Commission

Case Study One

Talk Talk: Unsolicited direct marketing calls

The marketing activity of a telecommunications service provider caused a number of complaints to be made to my Office in the first half of the year. Talk Talk (previously known as Tele 2 which was taken over by Carphone Warehouse and re-branded Talk Talk) was making marketing phone calls  to individuals who had already expressly told Talk Talk that they did not wish to be contacted, or who had exercised their right to be recorded on the National Directory Database opt-out register.

Such marketing is contrary to Regulation 13 (4) (a) and 13 (4) (b) of Statutory Instrument 535 of 2003, which states

A person shall not use, or cause to be used, any publicly available electronic communications service to make an unsolicited telephone call for the purpose of direct marketing to the line of a subscriber, where-

(a) the subscriber has notified the person that the subscriber does not consent to the receipt of such a call on his, her or its line; or

(b) subject to paragraph 5, the relevant information referred to in Regulation 14(3) is recorded in respect of the line in the National Directory Database.

A failure to comply with Regulation 13 (4) (a) or 13 (4) (b) is an offence for which the offender can face prosecution by this Office and direction by ComReg.

In conjunction with ComReg I carried out an investigation of the circumstances which had caused these calls to be made. Given the relatively large number of complaints received in a short period, Talk Talk and its parent the Carphone Warehouse were summoned to a joint meeting with ComReg and ourselves to allow for fuller discussion of the failures which had occurred. This confirmed a clear and unacceptable systems failure in the way in which an agent company of Talk Talk prepared the details of persons to be called.

Given that this was Talk Talk's first offence (albeit a number of offences were committed at the same time), it was decided to give them one opportunity to take remedial action and to put new practices and procedures in place as an alternative to prosecution. In the meantime, Talk Talk undertook to suspend all telesales activity in this country pending the implementation of corrective measures. It was also agreed that, prior to the recommencement of telesales activity, Talk Talk would make a public apology.

These commitments were honoured and I am glad to say that my Office has not found Talk Talk to be subsequently in breach of its obligations to persons who have expressed a preference not to be called.

This case has highlighted the sanctions available to my Office and ComReg but also demonstrates my overall policy of not moving immediately to prosecution in situations where it is an entity's first offence.