Telecoms firm Yourtel fined €5,000 over unsolicited calls

Data Protection Commissioner says company ‘unhelpful’ during investigation

Yourtel has been fined €5,000 for making unsolicited calls asking people to switch from different providers.

Yourtel has been fined €5,000 for making unsolicited calls asking people to switch from different providers.

 

A telecoms company has been fined €5,000 for making repeated unsolicited telephone calls to two homes, including to an elderly couple, urging them to switch their business.

Yourtel was prosecuted by the Data Protection Commissioner after it failed to respect requests not to ring the individuals concerned again.

In one case, the company’s representative rang an elderly couple on Christmas Eve and, despite being told by their son that they had no interest in switching from Eircom, continued to ring them on other occasions.

Assistant data protection commissioner Tony Delaney told Dublin District Court on Thursday he was “unhappy” with all aspects of the case and with the company’s failure to engage with him, despite being based in the same Dublin offices as the commissioner.

Guilty plea

The company pleaded guilty to two charges under the 2011 e-privacy regulations, which prohibit a provider from making marketing phone calls to someone who has opted out. Four other charges were withdrawn.

Mr Delaney confirmed the company had not previously been prosecuted by the Data Protection Commissioner.

It had, however, received the benefit of the Probation Act on a previous occasion when it was prosecuted by the communications regulator, Comreg.

“They have been unhelpful,” Mr Delaney said.

He said he would have expected a new telecommunications company such as Yourtel, which has been operating in the Irish market since the summer of 2013, would have engaged with the commissioner because such high compliance standards were expected in this sector.

“They are showing no interest in compliance from where I’m sitting,” he said.

Judge John O’Neill said it concerned him that the company had been subject to a previous warning by the Data Protection Commissioner about such practices.

Solicitor Peter Connolly for Yourtel said the company had entered a guilty plea before the proposed hearing date and that it had also paid the commissioner’s costs.

Training issues

Mr Connolly said he had been instructed to take note of Mr Delaney’s comments and that he would convey them to his client. He said there had been some training issues in the company and it had committed to addressing them.

Mr Connolly also offered an apology to the individuals affected for any distress and inconvenience caused.

Judge O’Neill said he was giving Yourtel credit for the guilty plea. But he had to take account of the fact the company had been previously given the benefit of the Probation Act and that warnings had also been issued by the Data Protection Commissioner about unsolicited marketing calls.

“They should have been aware of their obligations,” he said.

The judge recorded convictions on each of two charges and fined the company €2,500 on each, giving it three months to pay.

Yourtel also appeared in court last Monday facing charges by Comreg that it charged 500 customers for services it did not provide. The case has been adjourned to March.

Welcoming the outcome, Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon said it was clear there were still companies such as Yourtel flouting the law by breaching the privacy rights of individuals.

“My office remains committed to pursuing these organisations,” she said.