Nuisance calls and text messages could face huge fines due to data protection reforms



Tougher penalties for nuisance calls and text messages are being considered in a shake-up of data protection rules.

Currently, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can fine firms up to £500,000 but the Government wants bring it in line with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which carries a more hefty top penalty of £17.5 million or four per cent of their annual global turnover.

The move comes amid a spike in unwanted marketing calls in the past 18 months.

It forms part of several proposals to change the UK’s data landscape post-Brexit, with the launch of a 10-week consultation.

A broader remit for a reformed ICO, as well as introducing an independent board and chief executive, are at the heart of the changes, ahead of the Government’s preferred candidate John Edwards taking on the role of Information Commissioner from November.

The Government also wants to cut the 65,000 data protection complaints the ICO deals with every year, allowing officers to focus on bigger cases that represent serious harm instead of low impact complaints that make up the vast bulk.

Changes could spell the end for persistent web cookie notices too, which the outgoing Commissioner Elizabeth Denham pushed her G7 counterparts to follow in a meeting earlier this week.

“People’s personal data is used in ever more novel ways; it is right that Government looks to ensure a legislative framework that is fit for the future,” she said.

“A framework that continues to be independently regulated to maintain high standards of protection for people while delivering social and economic benefits.

“My office will provide constructive input and feedback as the work progresses, including through our public response to the consultation, ensuring that the ICO can effectively regulate this legislation.”

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said that leaving the EU meant the UK has the freedom to “create a new world-leading data regime that unleashes the power of data across the economy and society”.

“Data is one of the most important resources in the world and we want our laws to be based on common sense, not box-ticking,” he said.

“These reforms will keep people’s data safe and secure, while ushering in a new golden age of growth and innovation right across the UK, as we build back better from the pandemic.”

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