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Pension cold-calling financial services biz cops largest ever fine from UK data watchdog

EB Associates, a London-based financial advisory business, is facing a £140,000 fine from the UK’s data watchdog after it instigated 107,000 illegal cold calls to people about their pensions.

The fine, the largest ever issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), follows a wider investigation into organisations dialling up unsuspecting folk to discuss financial arrangements for later in life.

The practice of pension cold-calling was banned by the government in January 2019 to stop people being scammed of their life savings. Companies that make unsolicited calls could be be penalised up to £500,000.

In the course of its probing, the ICO said it found that EB Associates (company registration 08093318) had asked lead generators to call members of the public on its behalf, with up to £750 paid for each referral.

“Our priority is to protect people and we will always take robust action against companies operating illegally for their own financial gain,” said the ICO’s head of investigations, Andy Curry.

He pointed out that cold calls about pensions were banned to “protect people from scammers trying to chat them out of their retirement plans” and encouraged anyone affected by this to call the ICO.

The investigation discovered that EB Associates – which advises on mortgages, savings and investments, pensions, wills, and more – initiated a marketing campaign that involved the third party making 107,003 illegal pension cold calls between 11 January 2019 and 30 September.

The ICO found EB Associates didn’t have freely given, specific, and informed consent for the people that were cold-called.

“The ICO concluded that EB Associates contracted the lead generators to make the calls, knowing the cold calling ban was in place, in order to try and bypass the law,” it added.

Despite the law being introduced in 2019 to reduce pension scams, the Financial Conduct Authority said it opened 24 per cent more cases (135) in 2020 versus the prior year. A total of £2.24m in pensions was lost to scammers as of July this year. ®