/ Technology

We’re calling time on nuisance calls and texts

Phone being hit by hammer

‘I hate it and feel powerless.’ Which? Conversation commenter Matt Petre summed up many of your feelings on nuisance calls. We’re calling on regulators to work together to police and punish those responsible.

It’s clear that nuisance calls and texts have become a daily problem for many of you. They not only cause frustration, but they can even be distressing and intimidating.

There have been 1,600 comments made about nuisance calls and texts here on Which? Conversation and many of them have had the same theme – ‘why isn’t something being done?’. Our research also found that in the last three months, seven in 10 people have received unsolicited calls and four in 10 an unwanted text.

The government, various regulators and business leaders have told us that they get that this is a problem. The Information Commissioner has recently fined some companies. But I really think we’ve waited long enough for a proper crackdown that cuts the problem off at source. Which? wants to see some action and I know many of you agree.

A joint taskforce to stop nuisance calls

So we’ve launched a campaign to call time on nuisance calls and texts. We have called on the four regulators who have the responsibility of helping protect you from unwanted calls and texts (the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading) to set up a joint taskforce to take action on this nuisance.

We want this taskforce to start by focusing on the Personal Injury and Payment Protection Insurance industries, which is one of the main problem areas you have told us about. Our latest investigation has revealed that after making a claim to their car insurance companies, one in four Which? members were bombarded with calls or texts from claims management companies. So it’s definitely a good place to start.

We think it’s time for the regulators to go into the offices of the companies that are making these calls, or benefiting from them. We want this taskforce to get to the bottom of why so many of you are getting calls and texts you don’t want. We want to know if rules are being broken and if they are, there must be quick and effective punishment. If the taskforce finds evidence of rule breaking, we want heavy fines and licences suspended.

And one other thing. We want to see results in 12 weeks time. If the regulators are unwilling or unable to take this action then Which? will call on the government to step in.

Cutting off nuisance phone calls and texts

Cutting down on nuisance calls and texts may be complicated and there may need to be changes to the regulatory system or even new laws. But Which? has listened to you and we know that many of you want to see action – now. So our message to them is, ‘do what you can and do it now’, and then tell us what needs to change.

We will let you know more about our campaign over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, we want to hear about your experiences. Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts? Then tell us.

Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts?

Yes (100%, 30,130 Votes)

No (0%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 30,221

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Anna says:
19 March 2013

We really only use our landline for broadband, and leave it on answerphone. We have been registered with TPS for years now, but there are calls getting through which I report on ‘WhoCallsMe’ and recently to the ICO.

Regarding spam emails, all internet providers should be obliged to filter them out of the system, Zen Internet does this and very few get through to me. Good luck Which 🙂

whocallsme is a nice website, but sadly they have no power to do anything nuisance calls/texts etc, The ICO have the power but seem unable to wield it. The only times Ive posted on there is to include a link to the ICO/OFCOM etc for other people to report these calls.

I must admit I use whocallsme to get more details of the pests that ring. I have even suggested to the ICO that they team up with whocallsme to get a report button added to that website, as its frustrating to report a caller to the ICO when whocallsme has 20+ pages of complaints spamming back years, I quite often post a link to the whocallsme page in my reports to the ICO. No idea why these regulators can’t use a bit of joined up thinking.

Anna says:
19 March 2013

I meant to add that I don’t get calls to my mobile, I wonder if this is because it is on PAYG rather than and account with a provider.

You might be right, Anna. I have three PAYG mobiles on different networks and I don’t recall getting any nuisance calls, other than when someone has called my number by mistake.

I had wondered if it was because I make very few calls.

Peter says:
19 March 2013

Registered with TPS…….but still bombarded by phone calls, a person, a recorded message or silent calls.
Absolutely sick & tired.

These outfits should be given VERY LARGE FINES & CLOSED DOWN!!

Anthropomorphous says:
19 March 2013

Lee Beaumont: “Back of 2010 i paid £10 for a 0871 number to attach to my home phone.”

Where did you get your number from? I thought of this idea years ago, but when I searched I couldn’t find any premium rate numbers that didn’t cost several hundred quid!

The site I use it: https://secure.uk2numbers.co.uk they pay me back every time i hit £100.

marie says:
19 March 2013

hi when you got your 0871 number did you use this as your main number or can you use this along side your excisting number for non personel calls thankyou

Hi, the 0871 number sits on-top of your normal landline number. So you can in-fact use both numbers, but me, i have forgot my local 0113 landline number and just use the 0871. But yes, you can use both!

Please can we have a Conversation specifically about market research calls?

I would be happy to participate in market research calls related to subjects that interest me (including consumer rights) but the majority of market research calls are nuisance calls to me. There is also the problem that unscrupulous companies often pretend that sales calls are market research.

My own view is that market research calls should be strictly opt-in.

My views coincide with many others.

What really irks me are those calls that tell me I’m “on a list”, or “under 60” or “entitled to £n thousands” – all of which are untrue. Where a caller id is shown, they seem to be bogus or hi-jacked numbers (how do they do that?) – and while I’ve reported many to ICO, it’s hard to know what’s happening.

All power to Which? We don’t need this method of doing business. It’s intrusive

CCS says:
19 March 2013

Spam calls and spam junkmail are a plague. We covered cold calling here http://crapcustserv.blogspot.com/2011/12/anonymous-cold-calling.html and junkmail here http://crapcustserv.blogspot.com/2010/08/royal-mail-mountains-of-junk-through.html and here http://crapcustserv.blogspot.com/2012/07/too-much-optimism.html

If Which can do anything about these wasteful and annoying practices then more power to you!

Brian Hay says:
19 March 2013

I did start using the free Silent Call Guard Service on 0844 3722325, as a last resort – I think that has actually reduced the number of silent calls I get !! Something definitely needs to be done to stop theses annoying calls. as TPS just doesn’t work !! Has anybody else tried this service, with any success ??

Boomer says:
19 March 2013

Brian TPS does work.
You register your number not to receive sales calls and that’s it! TPS is a national database. You’re either on it or not.

The real problem as stated by Which? is the enforcement. The lack of enforcement is not deterring many companies from making unsolicited sales calls.

Brian Hay says:
19 March 2013

Well the proof of the pudding is always in the eating !! I worked for BT and have had TPS since it first started and that is many years ago and I still get sales sales call from the UK and from call centres in the far east. That suggests to me TPS doesn’t work, whether that be technically or through lack of enforcemnet !!!

Boomer says:
19 March 2013

You haven’t fully read my response.
As I said the TPS simply manage a national opt-out register. You’re number is either on it or not. That is ALL they do.
There is nothing technical about the TPS (A national database) and you would know that having worked for BT.

As the above report suggests (never mentions TPS!) that the problem is with the lack of enforcement. I believe since the TPS started there’s only been 1 (Yes – One!) case of enforcement. That is why companies now believe they have a free ride.

Brian says:
19 March 2013

You are correct, BT do not regulate the Telephone Preference System, they merely offer it as a service provided by a third party. As I understand it, if you are receiving cold calls you can pass that information directly to the TPS organisation, who run a free complaints service and they should then investigate your complaint. The TPS org should then collate that information and pass it to the ICO who are the body responsible for enforcement !. It would be interesting to see the level of complaints the ICO are dealing with and the actions they have taken ??

Boomer says:
19 March 2013

The TPS is managed by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
Anyone in the UK, regardless of network provider, can register on the TPS although BT provide 3rd party registrations as part of their BT Privacy at Home.

Regarding complaint levels I’ve found this: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/08/huge-rise-in-complaints-about-marketing-calls-294469/

The ICO need to pull their finger out!

We get a few calls each week that are recorded ones, plus the odd PPI one. Now we’re getting calls regarding accidents that we’ve had in the last 3 years. One man said he was calling about the accident I’d had and could get me money. I told him he was wasting his time,”I’ve not had an accident”. To which he replied “Well my records show you have!” I repeated that I hadn’t had an accident of any kind, I don’t drive and so have no car and have hadn other type of accident. He said “Are you sure!” It beggars belief that they can carry on this way.

I’ve also had the calls about problems with my PC, to which I reply that I don’t have a PC so can’t have any problems. They also say “are you sure, our records show that you have!”

No point in asking them to remove our details from their records because I’m sure they don’t. TPS to which we subscribe is useless with this and silent calls Anything WHICH can do to stop it would be brilliant.

Mrs. G. Casimir says:
19 March 2013

Not only do we receive up to six “International Out of Area” calls each day regarding accidents which have never happened and PPI’s which have never been mis-sold to us but we have recently been tormented by a new one. My 86 year old husband is becoming very distressed – a London number shows up on the Caller display and a recorded message for another member of the household is played asking her to call “Lending Stream” on 0845 351 1482. We receive between 6 and 9 of these calls A DAY! I tried calling the 0845 number to tell them their activities are illegal but cannot get to speak to anyone without a reference number. I then called the London number from the caller display and got through to…… Morgan Stanley Investment Bank who are absolutely nothing to do with Lending Stream which is a Pay Day Loan Company! They were helpful and tried to find out what was going on but eventually got back to me to say that the calls were not coming from anywhere in their offices but from India.
Explain that one of you can! Calls during one hour on one day came through at 15.08: 15.28: 15.32: and 15.59. How are we supposed to live with this? I’d just cut the calls off but don’t want to make life even more difficult for the silly clot who took out the Pay Day Loan in the first place!

I’ve been with TPS and ex directory for years, but still get between 4 and 10 calls a day. I now pull the phone jack out if I want peace as my mobile is very private and therefore if anyone really wants me they can call that number. Interestingly, My aunt in Tasmania lost my number, and could not get it from legitimate sources, so how come these guys can muscle in?
Recent calls have been from “Government Agencies” promoting grants and benefits for energy savings, as they are automated how can you tell who they really are?

hobbitland says:
19 March 2013

Simple, never buy anything from telephone & text. This applies to E-mail spam as well. Sometimes marketers even try to ask security questions & they could be crooks as well. DO NOT buy anything from these people.

There must be a lot of careless people for these marketers to carry on doing this.

I’ve caller ID. If its number withheld or 0800 I know its a marketer.

Radar Man says:
19 March 2013

My workplace was plagued by these autodialler calls last summer. They didn’t seem to care that the line they were calling was a discrete number for an Air Traffic Control Radar Unit! The calls were coming straight through to busy operational positions. It was happening so often that it became a safety issue. We tried the TPS and the Information Commissioner. They have stopped for now.

We’ve been with TPS, have had our number changed (and reregistered with the TPS) and have ALWAYS been Ex-directory. Because of my employment we had limited information on the Electoral roll for 18 years too.

But still we get these calls. Lately they have been recorded announcements about Energy and insurance.

BT run the telephone network. It is all digital. They should be forced to block any attempt to make calls that don’t have a valid ID header in the data packet. They should be forced to block calls from IDs passed to them by the TPS and the Information Commissioner. Using the ‘International excuse’ should be rejected.

It should be illegal for anyone to answer calls that don’t display a valid IDs.

There is no valid excuse for not displaying your ID when making a phone call.

dontstand4it says:
19 March 2013

Last February was a very distressing time as my mother in law who was suffering from Alzheimers disease went missing from her home. I was back at work having helped search for nearly two weeks, not knowing what would be the outcome and awaiting the possibility of a phone call from the Police that I was not looking forward to. On the afternoon of my return to work I received a phone call on my mobile from a woman who said ‘ we have a very urgent message for you….’ Before I had chance to realise it was yet another PPI sale, my mind went haywire and I felt physically sick. I was disgusted and annoyed with the imposition of that call as you can guess. I regularly get one call every two days on my mobile and 3 or 4 a day on my land line. For goodness sake cant we have some legislation and protection from such calls. (dontstand4it)

That’s awful. Something needs to be done and we’re going to push the regulators to sort it out

val pain says:
19 March 2013

I am registered with TPS but get reglar calls -mainly they are to say I am entitled to PPI refund or saying they are from Windows and I have a computer virus.It drives me nuts!
I know someone who got duped by the Windows virus scam & she gave her credit card number to the tune of £240.Fortunatly, her credit card company refunded her.

We have been registered with the TPS for as long as its been possible, have a TrueCall interception system and still unsolicited automated calls get through!
What’s concerning to us is that in recent weeks the calls are seemingly made from the UK from 0161 and 0151 numbers.
We go through the laborious process of checking out the number on line with Whocallsme, leaving a link to the ICO, and then fill out a report to the ICO.
What concerns me is the distress these sort of calls cause my elderly parent – making her anxious and reluctant to answer the phone.
Does the ICO provide any up to date information about who reports what, when and what they’re doing about it?
They don’t have to be passive google is their friend.

Logburner says:
19 March 2013

If junk emails can be blocked easily then why not phone calls?

I think the answer lays with the fact that the phone companies must be making millions from the companies that are making the calls.

If we had a system where unwanted calls could be reported or blocked – the same way that we dial 1471 for example. The most frequent offenders would be quickly identified, chased, fined or banned. The “number withheld” calls could also be logged by the same system (the phone companies must know the numbers and I don’t need to know).

Meanwhile I don’t rush to answer the phone, if it is an automated system it goes to other people in the queue first!

I think you’re correct: BT has no interest in blocking calls that add to their revenue.

Exxpertskier says:
19 March 2013

Ofcom is a qango.

We opted out of TPS and we still got calls on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day. We were forced to screen all calls with a greeting: ‘This call is being screened to prevent nuisance marketing calls which occur on a daily basis. Genuine callers may leave a message after the tone and your call will be returned as soon as possible’.

It is absolutely disgusting to have our privacy intruded upon. The action we have taken means the phone rings a couple of times a day and no message is left, so we assume we have screened a nuisance call. However, as many of these were automated, I guess they will continue. Additionally, screening calls means we pay for the call back! We appreciate some people would not want to do this because of the cost (we pay for unlimited calls we out telecom provider).

NOW, for the past six months, I’m getting ‘blocked’ incoming calls on my MOBILE, together with texts which invite me to text ‘STOP’ to a mobile number which could of course be a scam (we’ve read about some of these scams costing £30 + for a single text so beware.

ACTION IS NEEDED-THIS JUST MAKES OUR LIVES MISERABLE-who on earth is selling my data? And what other information is being given? VERY CONCERNING.

Ofcom and Oftel: both totally useless QUANGOs.

Bryan T says:
19 March 2013

I have invested in the BT6500 phone and it works a treat! – before 4/5 calls a day since 2 in a month.

I’m on TPS but still get unwanted calls, mainly from overseas. I have tried various answering techniques but this one works best for me. When the caller says “Is that Mr xxxx” I always only answer “Who is calling?” repeated until they give their name. This then enables me to clarify that it is not a legitimate caller. I then immediately say”No thank you” and cut them off. Generally all over in less than 10 secs and saves me getting too annoyed!