How can we cut off nuisance calls for good?
Our Conversation on nuisance calls has touched a raw nerve. It’s not often that an option in our poll gets less than 1% support – so far only 17 out of 1,395 voted that ‘the Telephone Preference Service is excellent’.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) states ‘this free service gives you the opportunity to select who contacts you by telephone. Once registration is complete telemarketers are legally bound not to call you’.
I’m therefore not at all surprised that so far 73% of you think the TPS doesn’t ‘do what it says on the tin’ – because it doesn’t block all unwanted calls and doesn’t even cover text messages.
Tonight’s BBC Panorama exposes how rogue firms get around the rules on unwanted calls, and for some of them it’s as simple as tearing pages out of a local phone directory and ringing up people at random!
Who can actually take action?
So what can we do about this? Of course it’s not as straightforward as we’d like. There is a complicated hotch-potch of organisations involved. The key one is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as it has the power to take action, rather than the TPS.
We’ve now had a reply to our letter – sent from Which? and nine other organisations from Hearing Link to Ofcom’s Communications Consumer Panel – to the ICO, Ofcom and the Direct Marketing Association (which runs the TPS). They’ve invited us to meet them this month at a meeting of their ‘Unsolicited SMS and Voice Working Party’.
Enforcement against breaches of unwanted texts and most calls falls to the ICO under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). On the other hand, Ofcom is responsible for enforcement of silent and abandoned automatic calls.
In the ICO’s reply, it sets out some of things it’s doing to tackle unwanted texts. The bottom line though is that, just like you or me, the ICO’s problem is working out who the sender is. The result is that it has fined just one company in 18 months.
Complaining about unwanted sales calls
To assist the ICO’s intelligence, it now offers an ‘online reporting mechanism’ for consumers to report unwanted texts (and calls) which it hopes will provide additional information to help it track down the nuisance firms.
Just as we thought, the ICO has seen a boom in unwanted calls and texts about claiming PPI compensation and for personal injury claims – in other words from claims management companies. So please do try out the ICO’s spam reporting form on its website.
We’ll be probing further into what investigations the ICO is carrying out and what enforcement action is in the pipeline when we go to see all three organisations later this month. We’ll also ask if the confusing responsibility for tackling unwanted calls and texts is part of the problem.
Another obvious tricky issue is how to deal with nuisance calls from overseas. From your comments, it seems that lots of you have received them and yet there’s little we can do – the TPS can’t block overseas calls. One wonders if the boom in unwanted texts and calls opens up an unnecessary market in paid-for call blocking services provided by many telecom firms?
How does the Telephone Preference Service work for you?
It’s rubbish - I get lots of nuisance calls (76%, 3,204 Votes)
It’s OK - I only get the odd nuisance call (15%, 615 Votes)
I’m not registered with the Telephone Preference Service (8%, 339 Votes)
It’s excellent - I don’t get any nuisance calls (1%, 35 Votes)
Total Voters: 4,196
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