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SNP Consumer Affairs spokesperson, Patricia Gibson MP, has welcomed a renewed commitment from the UK Government to introduce the measures she proposed in her Bill to combat nuisance calls.

The MP North Ayrshire & Arran met the newly appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nick Hancock MP on 01 February to discuss the issue, following months of government inaction.

Mrs Gibson introduced a Bill at Westminster in September 2016, which proposed holding company bosses personally responsible for nuisance calls by giving the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) the power to act against named Directors of companies found to have made unsolicited marketing calls in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. The Bill received UK Government backing and a promise to implement it on 01 April 2017, before Ministers changed their minds and, without a reasonable explanation, kicked it into the long grass.

Currently the ICO only has powers to impose fines on companies rather than their directors, enabling those directors to escape paying fines by closing their company and setting up a new one, a practice known as “phoenixing”.

Commenting after the meeting, Patricia Gibson MP said:

“Nuisance calls are a blight on millions of people every year, particularly the elderly and vulnerable. It is wrong that rogue company directors can avoid paying the penalty for their unlawful actions.

“We desperately need the ability to hold company bosses personally liable for fines imposed for unsolicited marketing calls, elevating the issue of nuisance calls to the boardroom and ensuring that directors cannot escape responsibility by liquidating their companies.

“The lack of progress since my Bill was introduced is deeply frustrating. If the UK Government is serious about tackling the practice of nuisance calls it must give the ICO the powers needed to pursue directors personally. This would benefit the taxpayer and act as a strong deterrent to directors whose firms engaging in this practice.

“My discussions with the Secretary of State were constructive, and I am delighted with his reassurances on the issue. This cannot simply be kicked into the long grass and his pledge to act is most welcome. I will continue to press this important matter until Mr Hancock provides a timetable for action which this time I hope the UK Government will stick to.”

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