Cold calling has been the scourge of the personal injury sector for a number of years. It is undoubtedly one of the main factors negatively impacting on the public perception of personal injury lawyers and detracts from all the excellent work being carried out day in day out in assisting persons injured in road traffic accidents in getting their lives back together.
I was unfortunate enough late last year to have had a minor collision with a delivery van travelling in the opposite direction and which had strayed onto my side of the road immediately before impact. I was taking my girls to school at the time. Thankfully, we were all uninjured but my new car lost its wing mirror completely and suffered fairly extensive damage to the driver’s side. Since that time I have had no less than FIVE separate and unsolicited calls from various organisations to advise me that I am entitled to compensation and that I can be assisted by them in securing that entitlement with the minimum of fuss. I have played along with their game to ascertain where they have got my personal information from – the most common answer has been from the utterly fictitious Government Department of Road Traffic Statistics – and to see where they will try and place my claim for continued handling. Alas, my persistent questioning has always betrayed my true intention as someone with an unhealthy working knowledge and interest in the process and so the calls are always terminated by the cold callers. Their practice must entice a number of call recipients though or they would not persist in such practices.
All reputable firms, including my own, never cold call and have processes to ensure that cases referred our way have not been generated by such practices.
I was heartened to see earlier this year that two individuals were convicted following a cold calling investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Kim Doyle, a former RAC employee, secretly created a bank of road traffic accident data including partial names, mobile phone numbers and vehicle registration details. She then shared the data with William Shaw, director of claims management firm TMS (Stratosphere) which trader under the name ‘LIS Claims’. Doyle and Shaw were exposed after a fleet management company alerted the RAC that one of its drivers had been receiving nuisance calls about a car accident. An internal RAC probe then unearthed Doyle’s bank of data after running a data leak scan across its email server.
In January Doyle was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after she pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to secure unauthorised access to computer data, and to selling unlawfully obtained personal data. Shaw was also sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to secure unauthorised access to computer data.
Both were also ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and contribute towards costs. A proceeds of crime confiscation order also made clear Doyle must pay back £25,000 and Shaw must pay back £15,000 within three months or face prison. The full findings of the Information Commissioner Office’s investigation can be found here – Motor industry employee sentenced in ICO Computer Misuse Act prosecution. Hopefully continued action taken by the ICO and prosecuting authorities will deter cold calling from continuing but I doubt that alone is going to eradicate it.
In the meantime, I would urge anyone coming across such practices to take a note of details of the callers and to report concerns (as I have) to the ICO telephone via their helpline 0303 123 1113 or through ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint.