A marketing company that made 22m nuisance calls to find claims has been handed one of the heaviest fines of its kind ever issued.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposed a £270,000 penalty against Basingstoke-based Road Accident Consult, trading as Media Tactics.

The company made automated marketing calls with a recorded message, but an ICO investigation found it did not have the necessary permission. The messages related to subjects including personal injury claims, PPI and debt management.

The company was investigated following more than 180 complaints to the ICO’s online reporting tool.

Steve Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said: ‘These 22m pre-recorded calls will have left many people feeling frustrated. But some people found them alarming and distressing – we heard from one complainant who found the calls depressing and another who was too frightened to answer any calls at all.’

Media Tactics told investigators that it had bought data from other firms and believed the people on the lists had given their consent to being contacted.

Phone numbers had been sourced from websites including discount and prize draw sites, payday loans, an insurance broker and an electronic cigarette seller. The individuals had agreed to their details being shared with ‘third parties whose offers we think might interest you’.

The ICO found the consents obtained were not adequate. Privacy notices on the website were found to be generic and unspecific, with long lists of organisations that would receive the data. 

Eckersley added: ‘Media Tactics fell short of the mark when it treated consent as an administrative box-ticking exercise. Proper consent gives consumers control over how their information is used. The people targeted by Media Tactics were not given that control.’

Media Tactics has been issued with a legal notice compelling it to stop making unlawful calls. Failure to comply with this could result in court action. The ICO says the £270,000 fine is one of the biggest it has imposed for this type of offence.