Well, it just had to come: a personal injury firm fined for ‘spam’. The unsolicited calls Direct Assist made over a sustained 18-month period landed the firm in hot water with ICO.
The company, who were based in Bolton, have since wound up. But their story will perhaps deter other lawyers from adopting similar practises through third party introducers.
When marketing calls overstep the mark
The TPS and ICO began monitoring Direct Assist in January 2013. Between then and July 2014, the full scale of their aggressive marketing unfolded.
Here’s a snapshot of how the firm broke the law:
- staff called one number 470 times;
- one household was told that they’d be subject to such calls for three years or until they made a claim;
- the aggressive nature of the callers put one deaf, elderly lady off answering the phone altogether.
It wasn’t as if they didn’t have fair warning. All told, TPS (with whom you register if you want to stop nuisance calls) made over 500 attempts to contact the personal injury referrers.
The requests fell on deaf ears. As it transpired, Direct Assist deliberately got their employees to call people who’d registered with TPS.
It’s this type of behaviour that gives genuine solicitors a bad name. Very often, the firms representing personal injury lawyers don’t identify themselves as a separate entity.
Is it because they’re less credible as an introducer, rather than a solicitor calling direct? Or is cold-calling beneath injury firms, even though they’re happy to deal with cases brought to their door by referral agents?
Either way, in this instance the catalogue of complaints culminated in ICO submitting notice to the firm. It was the final nail in the coffin and Direct Assist ceased trading.
Let’s hope there’s a stake through the heart and we don’t see this type of practise rise again.
Heads-up: what the public and injury firms can do to uphold justice
If you’ve registered your number with TPS, but are still receiving unsolicited marketing calls, there is something you can do about it.
Much in the same way as reporting ‘spam’ email to your mail provider, you can complain about nuisance calls or texts.
ICO has a dedicated webpage for reporting nuisance correspondence for the general public.
For firms worried about breaking the law, there’s also a guide, based on Data Protection, covering what is and isn’t acceptable in the digital communication age.
ICO urge the public and personal injury firms to read the respective documents. There remain solid reasons to inform people who’ve been injured what they’re entitled to if it wasn’t their fault. The culpable should go punished.
But there are right and wrong ways of doing so. The last thing either party want is to have to make a nuisance of themselves to bring the guilty to justice.