Personal injury firms have been warned they could face fines if they have obtained work through nuisance calls and spam texts.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reported that a record number of complaints were made linked to accident claims – with 1,645 received during the last three months of 2013.

The ICO believes many solicitors may be unaware that they could be breaching the Data Protection Act by using leads generated through unlawful methods.

However, it says ignorance will not prevent enforcement action that could lead to a financial penalty. Enforcement group manager Andy Curry said: ‘The message is quite clear to law firms – do your due diligence and check the provenance of the data to make sure it was obtained lawfully.

‘We are looking to push our guidance to the legal sector and the same rules apply to law firms as to anyone else.’

Under current rules, firms can carry out electronic marketing only if the person being targeted has given their permission. The exception is a ‘soft opt-in’, where the person has not taken an opportunity to refuse marketing or where details were obtained in the course of a sale.

Consumer watchdog Which? has lobbied for bigger fines for claims companies sending out spam texts and making nuisance calls.

Which? research found more than eight in 10 people received an unsolicited call in one month; of these, one in 10 people received 50 unwanted calls or more. Six in 10 people received calls about payment protection insurance and half calls from accident claim companies.