Information Commissioner’s fines are too puny to stop the illegal pensions cold-callers

Information Commissioner’s fines are too puny to stop the illegal pensions cold-callers

If you’d wondered why so many older folks get duped into moving their pensions into dodgy investments, better ask the Information Commissioner.

Last year, after pensioners had been repeatedly scammed out of their life savings, it became illegal to cold-call people about their pensions. So, when Aviva got a complaint from a customer that they’d been getting just such calls, it contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office, which enforces the law.

The watchdog traced the number to a firm called CPS Advisory and found the Aviva case was far from a one-off. CPS had made 107,000 pension calls in just four months. And that didn’t include the 400,000 calls where the pensioner didn’t pick up.

Even if these people had given permission to be called (unlikely), CPS didn’t have the Financial Conduct Authority qualification to contact them, the Commissioner ruled.

Worse still, one of the CPS directors had form. The watchdog didn’t name him, but company documents identify one Marc Standish, a director at both CPS and We Claim U Gain, which was fined £100,000 previously for PPI nuisance calls.

A fellow director at We Claim U Gain was Neville Wilshire, cheeky star of the fly-on-the-wall BBC series, The Call Centre. His firm, Nationwide Energy Services, was fined £125,000, also for PPI calls.

Seeing a pattern?

So here’s the thing: was CPS shut down for its actions? Was anyone barred from acting as a director? Far from it. The only sanction was a £130,000 fine, cut to £104,000 for prompt payment.

On average, that’s about a fifth of one person’s defined benefit pension. Chickenfeed compared with the commissions on offer for persuading folks to transfer. The call centres must be laughing.

If we really want to protect vulnerable people’s savings, the punishment has to hurt.

If not, the callers will just spring up again in another guise.