The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has been given new powers to crack down on the most serious incidences of businesses and other organisations making unwanted marketing phone calls or sending unwanted marketing emails and texts to consumers.

The change – along with other powers granted to the ICO – will come into force as part of an amendment to the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) on 25 May 2011.

The new powers, which have been confirmed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will mean that the ICO’s monetary penalty powers are extended. It will be able to serve a monetary penalty of up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches of PECR. This covers businesses and other organisations sending unwanted marketing emails and texts, as well as making live and automated marketing phone calls.

The ICO has also been given increased investigatory powers, allowing it to require telecommunications companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to provide the necessary information required to investigate breaches of the Regulations.

Under the new rules it will be compulsory for telecommunications companies and ISPs to notify the ICO and their customers in certain circumstances when a personal data breach occurs.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“The ICO has been calling for increased powers to regulate breaches of PECR for some time. The changes to the Regulations will grant us the right to impose significant monetary penalties for the most serious breaches of the rules and give us improved powers to investigate companies that make nuisance marketing calls.

“The new powers are coming into force on 25 May. We will be issuing guidance to reflect the changes that are being introduced.”