Avalon Direct Limited fined £80,000 for contacting pensioners
News / Firm offering funeral plans fined £80,000 for contacting pensioners registered with TPS
16 April 2019
Avalon Direct Limited, a company that offers prepaid funeral plans to citizens, has been fined £80,000 by the ICO for making almost 52,000 calls to people who were registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) between 1 March and 20 November 2017.
People registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) have a right under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 not be contacted for direct marketing purposes without their specific and express consent.
Avalon Direct Limited did not carry out due diligence
The Information Commissioner’s Office noted that Avalon Direct Limited indiscriminately called people thousands of times without checking the numbers against the TPS register or obtaining consent from people to contact them with funeral plan offers.
In May last year, the Daily Mail uncovered how Plan My Funeral Avalon Ltd, now known as Avalon Direct Limited, used call centres to repeatedly call pensioners and goad them into buying £4,000 pre-paid funeral plans. The report prompted an MoS investigation into the activities of the funeral plans company.
“There were over 200,000 pre-paid funeral plans bought last year, and most of them I am sure were perfectly legitimate. But, as The Mail on Sunday uncovered, there are some sly salesmen out there going to extreme lengths to rip off vulnerable pensioners. Tougher regulation is needed to enforce robust standards for all plan providers, and to protect grieving families,” said Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen following the Daily Mail’s investigation.
Funeral plans firms targeting vulnerable & elderly people
The Treasury also announced plans to bring the £2 billion funeral plans industry under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority. The ICO’s investigation into allegations of Avalon Direct Limited contacting elderly citizens who were registered with the TPS was also launched following the publication of the report.
“The funeral plan industry has been on our radar for a while and it is fair to say the sector as a whole has had some issues in terms of complying with the law. That’s not always reflected in volumes of complaints, however, because the very nature of this particular sector means the people being targeted for funeral plan sales may be older, potentially more vulnerable and may not be as technologically savvy or as active online,” said Andy Curry, Enforcement Group Manager at the ICO.
“We would ask people to speak to their older relatives, neighbours or friends and make sure they are registered with the TPS. If they have still been getting nuisance calls, they can help report these calls to us as this helps us build up intelligence on companies and sectors where we need to take action,” he added.
Aside from issuing a fine of £80,000 to Avalon Direct Limited, the ICO has also directed the firm to desist from using public electronic communications services for the purposes of making unsolicited calls for direct marketing where a subscriber registered with the TPS at least 28 days previously and has not notified the firm that they do not object to such calls being made.