LONDON: A record 180,188 complaints were made about nuisance calls and texts last year, according to new figures from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The UK privacy watchdog said the number of complaints rose 11.4% from the previous year as households found themselves bombarded with marketing communications.

"Most concerns related to accident claims, green energy deals, payday loans and lifestyle calls. Live calls generate significantly more concerns than automated calls and spam texts," the report said.

The ICO said it had levied five fines totalling £386,000 regarding these calls and texts. It also issued eight enforcement notices while another 31 firms were "monitored".

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said a change in the law meant the ICO would be able to punish more "merchants of menace" in the future.

"The job of pinning civil monetary penalties on nuisance phone callers and text spammers was made easier when the Government removed the requirement to prove substantial damage or distress before we could issue a fine.

"We were anyway tackling a record number of complaints under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), but the change in the law will help us to nail more of these merchants of menace."

However, the consumer advocacy group Which? warned that the number of complaints was likely to be the "tip of the iceberg" and called on the ICO to use its new powers to full effect.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said: "Regulators, Government and industry must work harder to cut off unwanted calls and texts that annoy millions of us every day.

"The ICO must use its new powers to full effect and hit hard any company breaking cold-calling rules. We also want to see senior executives personally held to account if their company makes unlawful calls."

On a more positive note, the ICO said it had received fewer data protection concerns in 2014.

It said the number of complaints fell to 14,268, partly because of its work to reduce the number of ineligible concerns, and that it had significantly improved the time taken to deal with them.

Data sourced from ICO, Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff