New Powers Welcomed by the ICO

May 3, 2011

The Information Commissioner has issued a statement welcoming its new powers to serve monetary penalties of up to £500,000 for the most serious incidents of businesses and other organisations making unwanted marketing phone calls or sending unwanted marketing e-mails to consumers. The change – along with other powers granted to the ICO – will come into force as part of an amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) on 25 May 2011.  

The new powers, which have been confirmed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will include:                         

·         Monetary penalty powers extended: the Information Commissioner can serve a monetary penalty of up £500,000 for the most serious breaches of PECR. This covers businesses and other organisations sending unwanted marketing emails and texts, as well as making live and automated marketing phone calls.

·         Increased investigatory powers: the Information Commissioner can require telecommunications companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to provide his office with information that he needs to investigate breaches of the Regulations.

·         Compulsory notification when breaches occur: telecommunications companies and ISPs will be required to notify the ICO and their customers in certain circumstances when a personal data breach occurs.

·         Increased audit powers: the Information Commissioner will have the power to audit telecommunication companies and ISPs for compliance with these personal data breach notification requirements.

·         New rules for web sites using cookies and similar technologies: the ICO will be responsible for regulating compliance with this new requirement and will soon be issuing advice.  

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

‘The ICO has been calling for increased powers to regulate breaches of PECR for some time. The changes to the Regulations will grant us the right to impose significant monetary penalties for the most serious breaches of the rules and give us improved powers to investigate companies that make nuisance marketing calls. The new powers are coming into force on 25 May. We will be issuing guidance to reflect the changes that are being introduced.’