/ 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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AmbushCall says:
19 March 2013

This is a great initiative! It’s actually what we’re all about.. stopping nuisance calls. We’ve created a service that reveals blocked calls and has a ‘nuisance caller list’ which will play a disconnect message when the caller rings your mobile. We’re adding some fantastic new features in the coming months to combat against these type of calls..

We wish you guys the best of luck on this campaign.

[Sorry, we don’t allow promotional links. Thanks for the kind words though! Thanks, mods.]

richard says:
19 March 2013

Yet again – Found having my answer phone permanently left on at the four ring setting – STOPPED nuisance calls virtually altogether – went from 10 a day to 1 every three months – and that 1 was a wrong number – Totally free as I already had the answer phone. Did this because I nearly killed myself rushing downstairs to answer a cold call. My friends have no problem leaving a message as requested – and often as I am near the phone when it rings – I can reply to them while they are still talking. Works well – been doing it for over two years.

Ally says:
19 March 2013

Thanks Lee for the info might just give the 0871 idea a try.

However, though this might raise some funds it will not stop the nuisance calls. I agree with most posters and registering with the TPS has little apparent effect. Still get the calls.

In fact just had one when reading this page and mentioned it. Caller said it wasn’t a nuisance call but I begged to differ!!

Wasn’t there some case not too long ago where someone sued wasted time in dealling with cold/nuisance calls from the same organisation? I have started to pull a list together (albeit a short one) detailing the name of the organisation calling, when and for how long.

There was a chap featured on the radio a couple of months ago who sued two cold call companies for his time responding to their calls. This sounds like a great idea, but when I looked into it, it transpires that he’s the director of a company who sell a call recording service, and the first piece of advice he provided on how to sue people for cold calls was “Make sure you record the calls”.

I may be slightly cynical here, but I felt that this was a cute piece of marketing almost as dodgy as the cold calling. He certainly conned the BBC, who I’m sure wouldn’t have used this piece if they’d known his vested interest.

Anna says:
19 March 2013

I didn’t answer the phone but 08009 752 453 has just rung again – it is the AA according to WhoCallsMe

Let me guess, you perhaps have an AA ISA ?

Anna says:
19 March 2013

Sorry william, I have no connection with the AA

Fair enough, that’s the only reason I get pestered by them. Them trying to persuade me to buy more products, which is odd, as I never ticked the we will contact you button.

Gordon Griffiths says:
19 March 2013

My phone is ex directory and registered with the TPS – a pretty clear signal that I do not wish to receive calls from organisations not known to me.
However, I recently discovered that this does not prevent my number being detected and called by market researchers using random number equipment – on this occasion for a survey for a police and crime commissioner at 8.45pm.
I made known my views on the interruption and disturbance to the caller. But I am concerned unexpected calls can often confuse and worry elderly people, especially those who go to bed early (and many do) or have hearing problems. The number of such people grows every day.
I hope the Which? campaign, which I totally support, can be extended to call for random dialling devices to be blocked from calling TPS and ex-directory numbers.

Bob says:
19 March 2013

There are at least two call blocking gadgets:

I have the latter. I set it to block calls ‘Unavailable’ and allow ‘Withheld’. I have no connection with either company except as a customer.

Thanks Bob – but to me the idea of us as consumers having to spend money (and time/effort setting these things up) to stop money-grabbing businesses with questiobale ethics making intrusive nuisance calls shouldn’t be necessary.

We need to find way to stop this unwelcome activity. That’s what the campaign is all about.

Bob says:
19 March 2013

It also annoys me that I had to pay. For a year after finding out about the gadgets, I refused to buy one. But daily nuisance calls were making me angry and it was something immediate I could do. If the campaign succeeds, I’ll still have had a year or two of relative peace.

I support the campaign.

Trouble with that idea is that, at least in my area, both the doctors’ surgery and the local hospitals “WITH HOLD” their numbers when they ring you, e.g. to change an appointment, (as they frequently do). I simply cannot afford to block calls from the Health Service at my age or physical condition.

Bob says:
23 March 2013

You can allow ‘Number withheld’ calls and block ‘Number unavailable’ calls.

One other thing that also needs addressing is the we can connect you about other products boxes on websites. Some are opt in some are opt out, and one Magazine (The publisher is Eaglemoss) has an opt in on one page and an opt out on the next, This needs to be stamped out and standardised, with the same wording across the board so as there’s no chance to trap the unwary into ticking box or not. As companies go out of their way to trip you up.

Bob says:
19 March 2013

Here’s one way of responding to a nuisance call:

I’ve got a list of numbers (via caller display) where I’ve had calls with recorded messages offering PPI recovery, pension deals, accident compensation, etc – with the usual options of 5 or 9 which I’ve ignored.

I’ve been tempted to ring the numbers to ask them to desist, but I’m uncertain about the possible consequences.

Any views anybody?

Michael says:
19 March 2013

Theres’s advice on Recorded messages here:

I’ve read (can’t find a link) that by pressing a number could indicate that the number is live and in use. This information can then be sold on to other companies.
In some cases you could be charged for the call after pressing a number.

R Allen says:
19 March 2013

I have started to keep a booklet of who called, date and time of call. I inform them that I wish to be taken off their list. I tell them I have taken their information and if I get 3 calls from them I will inform OFCOM of their behaviour. I think it may be working as we don’t seem to get as many as we use to. Another trick I use is when they phone me, I have remarried, we tell them I died, my previous married name, hoping they will stop phoning the old dead me, lol

Emma says:
20 March 2013

Smith’s Glass have been making nuisance calls to me for about 6 years. I have told them to stop repeatedly and they just continue.
There are masses of comments on the following site from people who are also victims and a denial from an employee!


Gordon says:
20 March 2013

Registered with the Telephone Preference Society but every time I complain to them, they say there is nothing they can do and refer me to Consumer Advice Centre who just refer me back to the TPS. Do these people actually get paid for doing nothing? Anyway, I’ve installed call blocker which seems to be working.

I wonder if whether a self-funding approach might be more effective than the current system of regulation…

Good: I’ve had mixed success in reporting unsolicited contacts to OIC: After posting a comment on an online music site, I started getting pestered with spam from companies who’d bought a list of email addresses illegally ‘harvested’ from the site. OIC responded to each case and issued the companies with warnings, I received personal apologies and it has stopped.
Could Do Better: In other cases, valid complaints are met with what sound like excuses for inaction from OIC. For example, I made a donation via mobile to a charity in response to a TV ad, and they started phoning me to ask for more money. All I got in response was a statement of the rules (which had clearly been broken) and some advise about always opting out (which I do).

It seems pretty clear that OIC are struggling with limited resources, and I can’t see this changing much: It costs money to pursue what might be regarded as a ‘first world problem’, and the problem doesn’t cost the government in the way that tax evasion or benefit fraud does.

Why not set up an independent agency to pursue these cases, which would be funded by the resulting fines (if this is acceptable) and by levying costs on guilty offenders? When this approach is used in wheel-clamping parking offenders it is said to lead to over-zealous clamping, but in the case of cold callers, surely no amount of zeal is excessive.

Les says:
20 March 2013

Every few days we receive a cold call from India on our land line wanting us to participate in a “Survey”. We have Caller Display which shows “International”. I now either just lift the receiver and leave it off the hook for 5 minutes, or I ask them “hold the line please”, with the intent of at least delaying them from annoying the next person on their list. Clearly no TPS sanction is ever going to deter this abuse. Our phone company say they cannot differentiate between “Caller Withheld” and “International” to block only the latter. I will try the gadgets mentioned by Bob above.

Sharon says:
20 March 2013

I can’t stand these phone calls. We’ve had everything from PPI claims, car insurance scams and windows 8 computer has been infected. They call at awful times and the TPS do nothing to help. Please Which? do something about this and ban these callers!

FYI, the ICO has fined Scottish company DM Design £90,000 on the day we launched our campaign to call time on nuisance calls. Richard Lloyd said:

‘We’re pleased to see the Information Commissioner taking more action, but this small fine is far from the sort of deterrent needed to call time on the use of nuisance calls and texts.’

‘With seven in 10 people receiving an unsolicited call in the last three months it’s clear that the current approach to enforcement isn’t working and much tougher action is needed.’


Good news – and encouraging signs that some action is being taken.

OK if you can identify the source of the unwanted calls; How can we do that?

Maybe we should all ring DM Design and keep them on the phone for half an hour before congratulating them on their fine. 🙂

I wonder if that is illegal.

I took a call from this company when I was visiting my parents a while ago. When I told the caller it was none of her business who is responsible for spending decisions in the household, she told me that she found me rude. I’m not at all ashamed to say that my subsequent language left her in little doubt about my ability to be impolite – as far as I’m concerned, this sort of unsolicited call means I can be as rude as I like.

It’s good that the ICO has imposed a fine, although I don’t think it’s big enough to be a true deterrent.

“It is against the law for companies to call consumers to call consumers who are registered with the TPS without their clear consent.”
My phone number is registered with the TPS & as far as I’m aware I have never given my consent to receive such calls yet still they come & it’s become so bad that my answerphone is on virtully all of the time & I resent this as my phone is supposed to be there for MY convenience.
Yet these faceless companies must be making money from somewhere (despite any paltry fines) so why doesn’t the legal forces that be follow the advice frequently given by Which? & hit them where it hurts, in their wallets! As long as these people continue to make money they will continue with their despicable practices despite it being illegal & it’s only when they cease making money that these unsolicited calls will continue. Make the fines really bite & then we might see something change!

What I do not under stand if its against the law why are they not dealt with by the law?

Pete Parkins says:
20 March 2013

I tried complaining to B T. and to ask them what plans they had to tackle the problem. All I got was a silly rep who could only repeat the mantra that B T were unable to prevent international calls.When I asked to speak to someone who could tell me what they were doing about it they said no manager was available and rang off. I am a B T customer for both phone and broadband, but that didn’t seem to help. If the people who make the CPR can fix it why not B T?

Unhappy. says:
20 March 2013

Don’t hold your breath for anything to get done about this.
I used to report all cold calls to the ICO until I was cold called by a marketing company who had been passed my details by the ICO themselves.
I know that doesn’t sound possible, but they admitted it.
After an internal investigation, they said that they had acted within the letter of the Data Protection Act (which they also happen to police).
Little wonder, maybe, as Christopher Graham (the ICO himself) was the director of a couple of marketing companies up to a couple of months before he assumed his post.
The European Court of Justice are curently investigating…

Tim says:
20 March 2013

Having joined TPS, I don’t get many nuisance calls from within the UK. The calls that I get now are usually from an “International” number and so not covered by TPS – which rather defeats the object.

These calls are made from outside the UK, but they are being made on behalf of companies based here in the UK who are using offshore call centres to get around the TPS rules. One of the “International” calls I received was on behalf of Great Ormond Street Hospital!!!!!

Its the sponsoring companies that should be fined, the companies whose services are being sold – then we might see a reduction in these calls which really are what they are called – a damned nuisance.

Michael says:
20 March 2013

The Privacy & electronic communication regulations (PECR) is a UK legislation. Part of which is that companies must ensure they don’t call anyone that has not given prior consent/opted out. This is were TPS comes in and why it exists.

As its a UK legislation all callers, regardless of origin must abide by the UK laws. As any other law!
Problem is that the ICO have no teeth when the caller is oversea & out of reach. They DO if the company is UK based but using an off-shore call centre.

So TPS (the PECR) does cover oversea calls, just like UK ones, but the ICO don’t help by not enforcing there powers.