We last discussed the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill in edition 223 (here), when we reported that MPs were considering amendments, during the committee stage of the Bill. A clause was inserted, prohibiting live unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls in relation to claims management activities, except where the recipient has given explicit consent to receiving such calls.
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill underwent its third sitting last week, with the Government and opposition still in disagreement over whether the Government’s proposed ban goes far enough.[i] As mentioned in previous editions, the Labour position is to implement a ‘complete ban’ on cold-calling, including communication by text message.
At the 3rd sitting, Jack Dromey, Labour Frontbench Spokesperson, said:
‘Around 51 million personal injury-related calls and texts are sent by regulated claims management companies each year. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has long called for a ban on personal injury cold calls from CMCs, especially as solicitors themselves are already banned from cold calling.
Ironically, only recently, the justice secretary said that there would be a ‘forthcoming ban on cold calling’ when discussing personal injury claims. If the justice secretary believes that there is a forthcoming ban, why do we not act now and include it in this bill?’
In response, Treasury Minister, John Glen, assured that the Government would ‘continue to have a meaningful dialogue on the outstanding concerns ...’
This week, the Bill entered into the ‘ping pong’ stage, with the House of Lords able to amend, reject or accept existing amendments but add no extras. By this stage, any opportunity to institute a total ban was likely to have passed.[ii]
In the minutes of proceedings, Department for Work and Pensions Minister, Baroness Buscombe, told peers:
‘This amendment takes the onus away from the individual to opt out of such calls being made to them and puts the responsibility back on the organisation to do its due diligence before making such calls ... I am confident that the amendment will have the effect of making unwanted calls about claims management services unlawful’.
She went on to say that:
‘The measures in the bill will be complemented by existing and forthcoming data protection legislation. Where personal data is obtained through an unlawful cold call, the further use of that data—for example, to make further calls in the future—would be contrary to the Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner’s Office can issue fines of up to £500,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act, although this will be raised significantly—to approximately £17m or 4% of a company’s turnover—through the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Bill that is currently going through Parliament’.
The House of Lords accepted the ban in its present form, rejecting Labour’s proposals to go further. The Bill will insert a provision into the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations.[iii] Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Sharkey, who had previously pursued amendments, was satisfied with the Government’s commitments.
[i] Neil Rose ‘Government and Labour to keep talking on details of CMC cold-calling ban’ (27 April 2018 Legal Futures) https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-and-labour-to-keep-talking-on-details-of-cmc-cold-calling-ban accessed 30 April 2018
[ii] John Hyde ‘Outright cold-call ban fails to make it through finance bill’ (27 April 2018 Law Gazette) https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/outright-cold-call-ban-fails-to-make-it-through-finance-bill/5065870.article accessed 30 April 2018
[iii] Neil Rose, ‘Peers agree to cold-calling ban with strong penalties for those who use illegally obtained data’ (Legal Futures 2 May 2018) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/peers-agree-to-cold-calling-ban-with-strong-penalties-for-those-who-use-illegally-obtained-data> accessed 2 May 2018.