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Company boss accepts director disqualification after marketing calls breach

A man whose business was responsible for millions of nuisance marketing calls has been barred from serving as a company director for six years.10 Aug 2018

Coventry-based Easyleads Limited was issued with a £260,000 fine by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in September 2017 after the watchdog found it was responsible for making 16.7 million automated marketing calls without the prior consent of recipients of those calls.

The company also breached rules that companies making automated marketing calls to identify the sender or instigator of those calls and provide an address or telephone number that they can be contacted on free of charge, according to the ICO.

Easyleads, however, failed to pay the fine which led the ICO to file for and obtain a court order to wind up the company.

The Insolvency Service subsequently investigated and has now announced that the sole director of Easyleads, Shaun Harkin, 48 from Coventry, has accepted a disqualification undertaking that will prevent him from being directly or indirectly involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company for six years from 13 July 2018.

A disqualification undertaking is an out-of-court agreement. In his undertaking Harkin does not dispute that he failed to ensure Easyleads complied with its statutory obligations to prevent calls being made to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) between October 2015 and June 2017, according to the Insolvency Service.

David Brooks, chief investigator at the Insolvency Service, said: "This is a serious case where Shaun Harkin knowingly allowed the company to make unsolicited calls contrary to regulations and caused a great deal of distress for many people. The six-year ban reflects the seriousness of these actions and together with the ICO, we want to ensure this serves as a warning to others that we will seek redress should your conduct fall below accepted commercial standards."

Earlier this year the UK government proposed to amend the Privacy and Electronic Communications (e-Privacy) Regulations (PECR) to give the ICO the power to impose fines of up to £500,000 on individual directors. It would be up to the ICO to decide whether to fine just the company, just the director, or both. If the company has multiple directors, each could be liable for a fine.

PECR generally prohibits companies from transmitting or instigating the transmission of unsolicited electronic communications to consumers for the purposes of direct marketing unless the person receiving those communications has given prior consent for the messages to be sent or the sender can demonstrate an existing commercial relationship with recipients. The ICO can currently serve fines of up to £500,000 on companies that breach the rules.

The ICO announced in May that it had only been able to recover just over half of the £17.8 million in fines for nuisance calls it has issued since 2010, due to companies going insolvent in order to avoid paying penalties.