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.