Reactiv Media fined for nuisance calls

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Elland company Reactiv Media have been hit with a £75,000 fine after pestering hundreds of people with nuisance calls.

The firm was found to have ignored the rules and was at one point one of the most complained about direct marketing companies in the country.

Between November 2012 and December 2013, the Information Commissioner received 481 complaints, Judge Chris Hughes told the First-Tier Tribunal.

There were two examples of ‘repeated calls’ being made on the same day to disabled people and one call was received on the work mobile of a 999 centre operator.

One scandalised member of the public complained that his dementia-sufferer mum had received a call from a Reactiv salesman.

The company had seriously breached rules which forbid unsolicited telemarketing calls to those who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

The Information Commissioner fined the company £50,000 last year - but Reactiv, based in Elland, appealed to the tribunal.

However, Judge Hughes ruled that, far from being too tough, the fine was too lenient - and increased it to £75,000.

He said: “The evidence shows a culture of denial and minimisation of the breach, weak governance of the company and a tendency to blame others rather than accept responsibility”.

Following the commissioner’s decision, Reactiv “clearly sought to mislead the press” by minimising its breaches, putting them down to a “technical error”.

The company, which sells insurance and conducts surveys, said it had now put in place ‘fool-proof’ procedures to ensure there would be no further breaches.

Its more than 200 staff were fully trained and calls were screened to make sure none were made to members of the public who had opted out of telemarketing.

The £50,000 fine, Reactiv claimed, would have ‘a big impact’ on its business.

However, Judge Hughes said the company’s breaches amounted to ‘an invasion of privacy’ which was likely to have caused ‘substantial distress’.

He added: “The evidence was clear and unshaken; a large number of complaints were made over a sustained period of time.

“During that period of a year, for many months Reactive was one of the most complained about companies.

“The evidence is overwhelming that the company carried on its business in conscious disregard of its obligations.

“There is little evidence of robust policies and procedures coupled with a culture which properly respects telephone subscribers and their right to privacy”.

Given the company’s attempt to mislead the press, the judge said: “The tribunal can have little confidence that appropriate lessons have been learned”.

The rapidly expanding company’s multi-million-pound turnover and “robust” financial health meant that £75,000 was the right penalty, the judge concluded.