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Lanarkshire Company Given Record Fine
A green energy company has been issued with a record fine for making nuisance sales calls.
Home Energy and Lifestyle Management (Helms), based in Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, was fined £200,000 for breaking marketing call regulations.
An Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) investigation found it made over six million automated calls as part of a marketing campaign for solar panels.
The company blamed another firm it had hired to make calls.
The watchdog received 242 complaints between October and December 2014.
One complainant said they were waiting for news of a terminally-ill family member and were unable to ignore the phone.
Another said the calls brought back memories of a morning phone call informing them that their young grandchild had died.
The calls were often repeated and it was not possible to connect to a person or stop the calls by pressing an option button.
Steve Eckersley, head of enforcement at the ICO, said: "This company's ignorance of the law is beyond belief. It didn't even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought-out marketing campaign made people's lives a misery. The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign."
"It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there's plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO's website. The investigation found that the calls were also misleading because the solar panels were not necessarily free as implied by the recorded message. However, Helms said the campaign had stopped before the ICO investigation began and blamed another company for the issues raised."
"Helms had significant difficulty in fully co-operating with the ICO, owing to the failure of the third party company to give any information to verify and explain the extent of the calls made," the company said in a statement from its lawyer. Helms said it would appeal against the ruling, and would take action against the other company.