Renewable energy firm fined for nuisance calls

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined a renewable energy company £200,000 for making more than six million automated calls offering “free” solar panels.

The watchdog handed the record fine to Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) after ruling it recklessly broke marketing call regulations.

An ICO investigation discovered that HELM made over six million calls as part of a massive automated call marketing campaign offering the solar panels.

The investigation also found that the calls were also misleading because the solar panels were not necessarily free as implied by the recorded message.

In just over two months, from October to December 2014 the ICO received 242 complaints about the company. 

One complainant stated they were waiting for news of a terminally ill family member and couldn’t ignore the phone, and felt powerless against the automated calls. 

The calls were often repeated and it was not always possible to connect to a person or to stop the calls by pressing an option button.

“This company’s ignorance of the law is beyond belief,” said Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the ICO 

“It didn’t even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought out marketing campaign made people’s lives a misery. The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.

“It should be a warning to other companies to think before they launch into a campaign. Direct marketing campaigns can be run within the law with a little thought and there’s plenty of advice available to companies in the ICO’s website.”

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, specializing in local government, transport and energy issues