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ICO in action: Ban on unsolicited marketing calls to members of pension schemes

  • United Kingdom
  • Privacy, data protection and cybersecurity


This speed read follows on from our briefing in November 2018 in which we explained that the government had proposed a change in law to implement a ban specific to pensions related cold calling.  At that time it was estimated that 10.9 million consumers had received unsolicited contact about their pensions since 2015.  There is more detail on the background here.

On 9 January 2019, the Government implemented the ban, and it is now illegal to make cold calls in relation to pensions except in limited circumstances. Not all calls about pensions have been banned, however the new law goes a long way towards tackling fraudsters and pension scammers.

As of this month, the first investigation was made public by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who is now using its powers in relation to the ban. Since the ban came into force, there has been speculation on how effective it would be in protecting individuals. The ICO has showed it is now beginning to flex its investigatory powers in relation to this new legislation. 

On 3 October 2019 the ICO announced it had searched a business premises in Chichester as part of an investigation into illegal cold calling related to pensions. The warrant by the ICO saw computer equipment and documents seized for analysis. The investigation is ongoing. If the ICO decides to take enforcement action, this would be made public at that stage.

The ICO’s search demonstrates its step up towards protection of individuals rights in action. David Clancy, ICO Enforcement Group Manager points out this search and investigation “should serve as a warning to business owners that they must follow the law”. It is important to note the ICO has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000 for breach of this law, namely the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations – not the GDPR.

This is the first example of the ICO using its powers to investigate compliance with the ban since its coming into force. It will be interesting to see if the ICO decides to take formal enforcement action.