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Information Commissioner launches investigation after pension sales data exposé

The Information Commissioner’s Office is to investigate a number of data firms after a Daily Mail investigation found they were selling sensitive details of consumers’ pension pots for as little as 5p.

A week before the Government’s pension freedoms come into force, the Mail found private financial information is being passed on without customers’ knowledge to cold-calling firms.

The investigation found some firms were willing to sell financial data on thousands of people without making any checks on what it would be used for.

A director of one firm – B2C Data – said he had access to the salaries, investments and pensions of “a million people”. He sold information to an undercover reporter including details of the salary, pension pots and investments of 15,000 people.

B2C director Nick Sayer claimed the firm’s financial information was primarily obtained from Sesame. But the advice network denies having any relationship with B2C, and the Mail says independent IT experts who examined the data confirmed it was not from Sesame’s database.

ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley says: “This is, on the face of it, a very worrying breach of the Data Protection Act, and we will be investigating the details further.”

When the Mail contacted some of the 15,000 consumers on the database, they said they had not consented to the information being used in this way. They said they had received up to five calls a day from cold calling firms.

Bosses of another company approached by a Mail undercover reporter revealed they were marketing unregulated high-risk investments to pensioners and investors.

David Billington at Targeted Response Direct Limited offered the reporter £500 for every pensioner she could persuade to put £20,000 or more into the investments.

Eckersley says: “What the Daily Mail has shown us today is very worrying indeed. It suggests a frequent disregard of laws that are in place specifically to protect consumers. We will be launching an investigation immediately.”

All the firms investigated deny any wrongdoing.

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Comments

There are 11 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I found myself on such a mailing list and despite telling them to take me off the list I continued getting calls from different companies about the same thing – “A free pension review”

    The sooner that this activity is stopped the better

  2. Truly shocking, but probably the tip of the iceberg ?

    And who’s door mat is this doggy doo (from a publicity and cost point of view) going to land on ?

    I think we all know the answer to that one !

  3. @Billy – So did I. As we record all incoming telephone calls, I have played along a couple of times and even managed to track down the call centre and practically the desk the individual was sitting at before reporting the firm to the FCA and to Trading Standards and anyone else I could.
    A large number of these firms seem to be working out of serviced turn key offices including those managed by Regus (at least one of the scams reported on the FCA website has a head office AND directors home addresses, recorded as a Regus office, which shows that companies house records are allowed to be updated without any common sense checking of addresses. A lot of these frauds could be made more difficult were simple checks made at the companies house level OR by the banks allowing the opening of accounts checking at companies house before allowing the opening of company accounts. Director details are FRR at companies house, so it costs time alone to check veracity of a firm and it’s directors.

  4. I have to give credit to the Daily Heil, it’s a great article – once you start reading it’s difficult to stop. I had a vague knowledge of what goes on with data but the scale of it is quite shocking even to me.

    The opt-out culture must end. Firms must be banned from passing on any personal details where it isn’t needed to provide services to the client. Simple as that. If this drives the likes of B2C out of business and puts their employees on the dole – good.

    Of course that would be far too simple and workable and the next Government will probably concern itself with trying to pass a law banning depressed people from becoming pilots instead.

  5. So, if not from Sesame or from any other holder of such data, from where are these outfits getting this data?

  6. Julian: The answer is likely to lie in the boilerplate text in the terms & conditions which will state something like “We may provide your data to third parties who perform tasks to help service your account. These third parties may be based in countries outside the European Economic Area. These countries may not have laws to protect your data equivalent to those of the UK. However, we will make sure that any such third parties agree to treat your data with the same level of protection as if we were dealing with it.”

    Basically, your bank or your insurer or whoever flogs your data to a third party based outside the EEA, who have signed a totally meaningless agreement to cover their arse under the eighth Data Protection Principle, then they flog it to anyone and everyone, passing a cut to your bank. When questioned the bank can simply say that it can’t be anything to do with them because they’re fully compliant with the Data Protection Act. And you can’t investigate the ‘outsourcer’ because they’re in a jurisdiction which has no interest in in your footling worries about data protection. Plausible deniability.

    Although it would be impractical to ban outsourcing, it would be trivial and enforceable to ban the sale of personal data for money, and there is no reason this could not be done. It is of no benefit to the customer whatsoever. And no, being able to “receive advertising more tailored to their preferences” is not of benefit to the customer. It’s like punching someone in the gut and then claiming you tailored it to their preferences because a punch in the face would hurt more.

  7. We all know what the answer is and that is and that for the ICO and FCA to work together and to have a crackdown on all marketing and cold calling firms that do not hold authorisation for pensions and investments.

    Oh I forgot the FCA don’t seem to want to enforce authorisation rules even though their statutory objective is to protect the consumer. In all of the articles and advertising on TV where is the FCA register for authorised firms mentioned. Answer nowhere!

  8. Douglas Baillie 30th March 2015 at 11:51 am

    Just the beginning of a potential train crash of pension mis selling that will reverberate throughout the entire pensions industry athat will give rise to a huge number of eventual complaints.

    However, as many of these ‘advisers’ will not be FCA authorised, there will be no compenstaion and the reputations of ‘the good guys’ (the careful, FCA authorised, well qualified pension advisers), and the pensions indusrty generally, will suffer irrepairable reputational damage as a result.

    Claims management companies will have a field day, and genuine investors will hear about it and become even more sceptical.

  9. This is Unbelievable

    Just taken a call from 08452863713 -the Pension Review Service

    I was so angry I forgot to ask who they were

    When I put 08452863713 into Google there are some big big brands advertising on the back of this – they might not even know they are associated with this phone number

    This must stop

  10. Billy Burrows

    I have reported this one already to the FCA would you please also report:

    whistle@fca.org.uk

    We can only close these firms down if we work together and put pressure on the FCA to take action.

    MM should be asking for a report of how many firms the FCA have closed down.

  11. Douglas Baillie 31st March 2015 at 10:28 am

    May I suggest that MM takes a positive decision to encourage its wide readership to identify and whistleblow any signs of scams or mis selling to the Financial Conduct Authority?

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