COMPANY directors whose firms plague people with unsolicited nuisance calls will be held personally liable if their company breaks the law, according to new legislation which comes into force today.

The crackdown means that company bosses directly responsible can be fined up to half a million pounds by data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Previously, businesses - rather than individuals - were liable for fines of up to £500,000.

However, some directors dodged penalties by declaring bankruptcy and then setting companies up again under a different name.

The new legislation will make it harder for companies to avoid fines, and has been introduced to tackle the longstanding problem of nuisance calls in the UK.

Margot James, minister for Digital, said: “There is now no hiding place for the small minority of rogue directors who have previously tried to escape justice.

"We are determined to stamp this menace out.”

Andy Curry, who heads up the nuisance call enforcement team at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “We welcome this amendment to the law which will increase the tools we have to protect the public.

"It will mean we can recover the fine more easily and also make it much harder for unscrupulous operators to set up in business again.”

Ofcom estimate that British people were bombarded with 3.9 billion nuisance phone calls and texts last year.

A study by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) last September found that Scotland receives more nuisance calls than any other nation in the UK, with cities such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen the most affected.

The organisation also found that nine in ten Scots had received a nuisance call to their landline, resulting in three quarters being discouraged from answering their phone as a result; four in ten felt intimidated by nuisance calls; and most nuisance calls were silent and consisted of marketing calls about Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) compensation and energy efficiency schemes.

Derek Mitchell, chief executive of CAS, welcomed welcomed today's announcement, saying: “Nuisance calls cause inconvenience and distress, and people should not have to put up with them, yet we know that Scots get more of these calls than other parts of the UK.

“We have campaigned to raise awareness of this issue and have called for action to protect consumers, so we are pleased to see this new measure.

"Consumers deserve protection against nuisance calls and it is right that those who are responsible for such calls have no place to hide.

“We would also remind people that there are ways to stop unwanted calls.

"The simplest way is to register with the Telephone Preference Service. It’s free and only takes a few moments. You can do it online, or call them on 0345 070 0707.

"You can also report nuisance calls to”

The ICO issued fines totalling £1.9 million to 23 companies for nuisance marketing in 2016-2017.

Earlier this year, an investigation was launched into Scottish double glazing firm CR Smith by the ICO after consumers complained that it was making unsolicited marketing calls.

The data watchdog monitored activities of the Dunfermline-based firm, which was once simultaneously shirt sponsor to both Rangers and Celtic, and told them they could face a heavy fine if there was no improvement.

An ICO spokesperson said: “Following our three-month review process there has been sufficient reduction in complaints to remove the company from our monitoring lists.

“This reduction can be evidenced by the fact that no complaints were received either by the TPS nor the ICO to date in 2018.

“Whilst we do not need to take further action at present, should we become aware of an increase in complaints in the future, or some other issue that calls into question the company’s compliance with the law, there are a number of regulatory tools available to us to take action.”