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Top telecoms firms fined for cold-calling customers

HOUSEHOLDERS can expect a reprieve from unwanted marketing calls after four major telecoms companies were yesterday fined for the practice.

Vodafone, UPC, O2 and Eircom all pleaded guilty to breaches of the Data Protection Act at the Dublin District Court and fined a total of almost €12,000. The four companies faced charges related to the making of unsolicited phone calls and the sending of unsolicited text messages.

UPC was convicted of 18 charges in relation to four complainants regarding the receipt of unsolicited marketing phone calls after they had indicated they did not wish to receive such calls.

The firm was ordered to pay a €7,100 fine.

The company was convicted of a similar offence in April 2010.

Vodafone was ordered to pay a fine of €3,850 after being convicted of four charges of making unsolicited marketing phone calls to one individual after he had indicated he did not wish to receive such calls.

Both O2 and Eircom were ordered to pay €2,000 to designated charities after the judge granted them the Probation Act.

O2 had faced a single charge of sending an unsolicited text message and Eircom had been charged with making an unsolicited phone call.

In a statement yesterday, Vodafone said it "sincerely regrets this instance where there was a breach in data protection regulations".

Deputy Data Protection Commissioner Gary Davis said his office was "very satisfied at the outcome as it sent a strong message to all companies, big and small that there will be implications if they do not comply with data protection legislation".

He reminded homeowners that companies cannot randomly call people on their landlines but were bound to seek permission from each person in advance.

When people are signing up to a new telephone service provider, the provider is obliged to ask the customer whether they wish their details to be included on the National Directory Database or not.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner seeks to prosecute those who call customers even when their number is listed as not wanting marketing calls.

"Our policy is to engage with organisations when they first come to our attention and only if they fail to learn from that engagement, do we bring prosecutions," Mr Davis said.

Irish Independent