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CMC hit with record £850,000 fine for ‘flagrant breach’ of regulation

Millions of 'deliberate' nuisance calls results in almost 2,000 complaints to Ofcom

2 December 2015

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A claims management company (CMC) guilty of a 'sustained' bombardment of nuisance calls has been fined a record £850,000 by the claims regulator.

The Lancashire-based National Advice Clinic made nearly 6 million calls between October 2014 and April 2015 about noise induced hearing loss claims, despite many of those called being registered with the telephone preference service.

Nuisance calls from the company, which also trades as the Industrial Hearing Clinic or the Central Compensation Office, led to almost 2,000 complaints being received by Ofcom.

Claims Management Regulator (CMR) head Kevin Rousell said the company's cold-calling campaign was 'deliberate, sustained, and a flagrant breach' of the regulator's marketing requirements.

'They showed an alarming disregard for the misery their tactics can cause, particularly to elderly and vulnerable people,' he continued. 'The size of this penalty demonstrates how seriously we take this issue - nuisance calls will not be tolerated.'

Fines from the regulator have continued to rise since issuing its first penalty totalling £220,000 in August. The latest fine comes six weeks after the CMR issued another large penalty of £570,000. This is the fourth and biggest fine issued so far, bringing the total collected to £1.6m.

Since 2010 the regulator has removed the licences from over a thousand CMCs, including 300 last year.

Justice Minister Lord Faulks said he was pleased the CMR had issued such a substantial fine for 'blatant and shocking behaviour'.

'The government is committed to protecting the public from this nuisance - that at best wastes people's time and at worst causes significant distress,' he added.

Russell Atkinson, the chief executive of National Accident Helpline, said the record fine demonstrated that the 'harmful practice' of cold calling remained widespread throughout the sector.

'Tackling these high-pressure marketing tactics will require decisive action from not only government and regulators, but individual businesses themselves; taking responsibility for improving standards and holding themselves to account,' remarked Atkinson.

Earlier this year, the National Accident Helpline signed up to the Ethical Marketing Charter, joining a list of more than 50 businesses, including law firms. The charter aims to stamp out bad marketing practices in the personal injury sector, such as cold calls, texts or emails.

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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