ICO: 43% rise in complaints about cold calling
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its annual report which shows a 0.3% drop in the number of data protection complaints received - with 12,985 complaints made last year.
However, the annual report highlights the public’s growing concerns about unsolicited marketing calls and texts.
During the last financial year the ICO saw a 43% rise in the number of complaints under the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR) – which govern electronic marketing - with 7,095 complaints received.
Commenting on these latest figures, the Information Commissioner said: “Last year the ICO gained tough new powers to tackle unsolicited marketing calls and texts, including the power to impose a penalty of up to £500,000 on the worst offenders.
“We have now set up a dedicated team to enforce the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations and we are currently working to identify the operators responsible. The ICO has executed search warrants at a number of sites across the UK linked to companies we believe are breaking the law.
“We have also set up an online reporting mechanism on our website that allows people to report any marketing texts or calls from unidentified senders. We have received over 12,000 reports to date and we are confident that this work will help us identify those responsible.”
Freedom of Information
The ICO has also witnessed a 7% rise in the number of Freedom of Information complaints, with 4,633 complaints received during 2011/12.
Despite this increase in the ICO’s workload and despite cuts in government grant-in-aid, the ICO has reduced by 66% the number of FOI cases that have been with the office for longer than six months. The number of data protection cases taking over six months to complete has also fallen by 82%.
“Our work resolving freedom of information requests has also increased. As budgets tighten and public spending comes under even greater scrutiny, public authorities must remain transparent and accountable if they are to retain the trust of the public they serve,” the Commissioner said.
Figures from the annual report also show a 60% increase in the number of audits carried out by the ICO Good Practice team. Of the 42 organisations audited, 90% felt that the process raised awareness of the importance of data protection in their organisations, showing that the ICO’s audits are bringing real information rights benefits to those that take part.
The ICO is extending its audits to cover public authorities’ compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and has also introduced advisory visits to help small and medium sized organisations.