By Daniel Hunter

The government will issue fines of up to £500,000 for cold call companies under new rules.

The move comes after Information Commissioner reported more than 175,000 complaints about cold calls and nuisance text messages in 2014.

At present, companies can only be punished if the Information Commissioner can prove "substantial damage or substantial distress".

But from 6 April, the Commissioner will no longer have to prove that level of damage or distress.

The government said the number of complaints has risen over the past decade and are particularly likely to cause distress for elderly people.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham earlier this month described the need to prove "substantial damage or substantial distress" was "a license for spammers and scammers".

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued fines worth £815,000 to nine cold call companies since 2012.

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey told BBC Breakfast: "At the moment if the Information Commissioner goes after a company, he's got to show the company has caused you - the consumer at home - serious distress, serious harm.

"It's a very high test to pass which is why there have only been nine prosecutions, which is why we want to lower that test.

"We want to go after the cowboys. Frankly the Information Commissioner knows who a lot of these companies are but it's very, very difficult to pass that threshold, now it will be a lot easier," he added.