ICO fines crisis deepens – 68% of fines issued since Jan 2019 haven’t been paid

ICO fines crisis – 68% of fines issued since Jan 2019 haven’t been paid

New research by The SMS Works has revealed that The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is failing to collect the fines that it issues to companies who violate the rules on data protection and spam.

In response to a freedom of information request submitted by The SMS Works, The ICO provided detailed payment information that showed that since January 2019, 68% of the fines issued still haven’t been paid.

Not only are they struggling to collect recently issued fines but they’re making no progress in collecting the £7 million in outstanding fines owed since 2015. Despite making use of debt collection agencies, The ICO has only brought in one additional fine from the 47 outstanding. More than £6.55 million still remains unpaid.

Nuisance call fines are proving even tougher to bring in. Just 10.7% of the total owing for spam calls has been collected.

In response to the findings The ICO defended its record in collecting fines and in a statement said:
“Many nuisance-call companies fined under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations go into liquidation. While in some respects, a firm going into liquidation marks a frustrating end to our investigations, it’s worth noting that when nuisance-call companies go out of business, they stop making calls. And that’s a successful outcome.”

Henry Cazalet, Director of The SMS Works and who conducted the research commented:
“In many cases the fines exceed the company’s ability to pay and organisations would rather go into liquidation than pay what they owe. The solution might lie in fining companies less, so that there is a higher chance of actually collecting the debt.”

The latest fines crisis data highlights that the higher the penalty, the less likely The ICO are to successfully collect it. Of the 21 fines of between £250,000 and £500,000 just 8 have been paid, leaving £4.55 million outstanding.

More detailed analysis and comment can be found in the report on The SMS Works website.
Henry Cazalet, the author of the report can be contacted for comment.

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