The information watchdog has searched a Scottish firm over claims that it has made more than 200 million nuisance phone calls - one of the highest volumes dealt with by the organisation.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it had obtained a warrant to search the firm in Clydebank, which it is thought had been making automated nuisance calls about boiler and window replacement schemes.
Some of the calls potentially put people’s safety at risk as they were made to Network Rail’s Banavie Control Centre, and clogged up the line for drivers and pedestrians at unmanned level crossings, who were calling to check it was safe to cross the rails.
The calls, which contain recorded messages, often aligned themselves to non-existent Scottish or UK Government initiatives. The business is not being named while the ICO carries out its investigation.
Ken Macdonald, head of ICO Scotland, said: “These calls have caused millions of people disruption, annoyance and distress, but not only this, those made to a control centre charged with public safety may have endangered lives.
“Companies behind nuisance calls should know that people are sick of them, and when people complain to us, we will act.”
MSP James Kelly said: “This is a shocking case of nuisance calls, putting lives at risk by spamming Network Rail’s level crossing safety lines. I trust the ICO will take firm action.”
Computer equipment and documents were seized for analysis during the search, and will now be used to inform the ICO’s investigation. The ICO has powers to issue fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which cover the way organisations make automated direct marketing telephone calls.
The highest amount of calls ever to result in an ICO fine is 146 million, when a Welsh firm, Your Money Rights, was fined £350,000 for breaking regulations. Meanwhile, in 2016, a Glasgow company which made 1.6 million nuisance calls to try and sell solar panels and green energy equipment was fined £60,000 by the ICO. Omega Marketing Services Ltd ignored the rules around telephone marketing when it called people who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service and who had not given their permission to receive calls.