/ 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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7 or 8 nuisance calls a day!! I am registered with the TPS but that does not seem to have any effect.

If your phone or phone company provides a call blocking facility I guess you could use that. My phone doesn’t, and the Virgin operator’s response was ‘infuriating isn’t it – I have the same problem. But sorry, nothing we can do about it.’ !

I do have caller-ident and an answer phone. I let the latter respond and either pick up if the call is wanted or, if I’m too slow, ring back. And inform Ofcom about the nuisance ones.

Once I held a rape-alarm against the mouthpiece. Don’t seem to to have had any more calls from that number!

Googling phone numbers identifies the rogue ones and brings up forums which are quite informative and certainly reveal the extent of the problem.

Chloë from the Cotswolds says:
20 March 2013

I’ve reached screaming point over automated phone calls. I am self employed and must answer the phone. Often there’s nobody on the line when I’ve run the length of cottage and hurdled over the cats to pick up. Yesterday a recorded voice said I should press 5 to hear an ‘urgent’ message about a ‘pension rebate’. Obviously I didn’t!

Since December the calls are coming in at up to 3 a day, any time mid morning to about 6pm.

My local police say they have the technology to trace the calls but won’t do it, because the calls originate outside the UK and are not life and death. Well, they’re damn well affecting my life! (I suffer from depression.)

Registering with Telephone Preference is no use because of the overseas origin of the calls.

This particular recorded message call traces back via 1471 to 2 numbers – Bradford and Manchester – which are “not recognised” if you dial them.


This is a wretched, wearisome nuisance which makes me feel besieged and powerless. And how many older or less aware people are being scammed or made to feel unsafe in their own homes?

…Personally I’d like to hire mercenaries to invade whatever country and shove those phones where the miscreants’ sun doesn’t shine, but I suppose that would be frowned upon… :/

Seriously: behind a ‘minor’ crime there is often a far worse one… Enough people must fall for the scam to make it worth while. It’s easy to imagine the money is used to fund international terrorism.

Kev says:
20 March 2013

In my experience there have been three types of nuisance call.

1) Automated dialler where the line is silent until a rep from the company picks up

2) Automated message asking you to click on a number to talk to someone

3)A person on the line trying to sell you something which also includes rogues claiming there is a problem with my pc!

I have a number of suggestions

1) Make automated computer diallers illegal

2) The UK providers give us the 1471 option to check on missed calls, give us a 1472 option which blocks the last number that dialled you.

Remove the option to hide the dialled number as we can’t complain about someone if we don’t know the number that they are calling from!

This option could be monitored and the numbers companies blocked could be fined

The government need to hit these companies hard with huge fines and treat this practice as harassment and not just a nuisance!

Geoff says:
22 March 2013

I just love this seemingly simple proposal that would give selectable preventative power to the individual subsciber!

“2) The UK providers give us the 1471 option to check on missed calls, give us a 1472 option which blocks the last number that dialled you.”

Which? please consider!!!

g.chase says:
18 May 2013

Thinking this one through,…. surely you don’t need an extra number such as 1472.
What you could have is an arrangement whereby you dialled 1471, you listened to the
information about the caller, and then if you wanted to block future calls from this caller (identified or not), you press (say) 9. [See Footnote]
Firstly, this gives you the individual/personal control you seek, and presumably, over time,
the actions of all “the silent majority” would cumulatively have a devastating effect on all of the
nuisance callers.
FOOTNOTE: There is an existing facility on 1471 whereby you can clear the 1471 store by pressing 5 ; so it looks as if additional software to implement this scheme might not be outlandish. ]

Fergus says:
20 March 2013

Two years ago my neighbour reversed into my van whilst I was asleep indoors. She knocked the door and let me know. I duly went and got a quote next day for her which her insurance dealt with. To this day I receive approx 5 calls a month asking if all the injured parties received their full compensation!! It’s getting beyond a joke now, the desperation in some of the callers voices is beyond a joke. ‘Did I get all I was entitled to?’ ‘Have I thought about claiming for loss of earnings?’ On and on. I wasn’t even in the vehicle! I’m afraid I have little patience for these people now and it’s gone far beyond my being polite. In the last two weeks the same woman has rung me three times from a withheld number despite assuring me she’d remove me from the database she was using. How on earth do they get my number? Surely it’s tantamount to harassment with the amount of calls I receive!

Karl says:
20 March 2013

I never used to get this and thought that it was just a landline problem as many people i know have land lines annd complain of these calls. Anyhow I applied for a loan with a company a few months ago and ever since i have been getting 10-20 texts a day and anything from 2 to 5 calls, all from either loan companies or debt “writeoff” companies. It is getting to the point where I just switch my phone off for the day and hope no one is trying to call me. I’ve tried being polite to them, I have tried shouting at them and even just hanging up prompts them to redial! Hope you are successful with the campaign!!! (if not i shall flush my phone down the loo and use carrier pigeons in future!)

Thanks for the support Karl. Hopefully that won’t be required, if the regulators take action. Think of the pigeons!

I usually let the answering machine take care of withheld number calls but I was expecting a call from a friend and answered, only to find it was yet another ‘Microsoft scam’ call. After a drawn out discussion and getting him to repeat what he was saying because it was a bad line, I eventually revealed that the reason I could not find the ‘Windows key’ was because I was using a Mac laptop. He ranted on about me having wasted his time, before hanging up. 🙂 🙂

Jim says:
20 March 2013

Would it not be possible for someone cleverer the me, to start a petition on the governments web site to force a discussion in the house of commons, I’m pretty sure it would reach the required 100,000 signatures in a very short time.

I did ages ago, but it’s hardly had anyone sign up to it.


I just don’t have a public forum to raise awareness of it.

There is an e-petition on this subject by William Barnes, one of our regular contributors – his avatar is a fox. It has 121 ‘signatures’ including mine.


The concept of e-petitions may be fine Tim, – but their effectiveness record isn’t strong.

A successful e-petition may get aired in the Commons but it doesn’t mean anyhting will happen.

I’m pretty sure the expert campaigners at Which? would have considered the options – so I’m backing their ‘taskforce’ approach – and we all, where possible, should be maximising publicity via Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Aloeanne says:
4 April 2013

i have posted this link on my facebook page and asked everyone to sign it and share.
can everyone else do the same please and that should get things moving

jennifer chapman says:
20 March 2013

I am truly upset and feel very violated with my privacy how did and can they even obtain our information ad be allowed to harass us I am so tried of getting unwanted strange texts and all kinds of calls from strange numbers most I do not answer this has went way to far and we shouldn’t have to go and change our numbers because they are doing this they need to be fined and end their business.

Julie says:
21 March 2013

I am attracted to the simplicity of the 1472 suggestion above – an option to bar the last dialled call. As a self employed person not answering the phone is not a sensible or acceptable solution. Nuisance calls – rather like junk mail actually – waste my time, impede productivity & jeopardise well being.

Look at my epetition linked above, I was after a simple number to type (during or after a call) to report the offending call.

I can guarantee that everyone who receives a nuisance call has a phone but not everyone no matter how much the windows scammers would claim have a PC or access to the web.

I can see a few reasons why people may not have ‘signed’ the petition. For example, it would be impractical to block callers that withhold numbers because many legitimate organisations do this at present. Maybe this problem should be addressed first.

Bob says:
23 March 2013

It isn’t possible to block a number if the number is ‘Unavailable’.

g.chase says:
18 May 2013

I made an earlier comment on a variant of this proposal.
Thinking further, this scheme would mean that the telephone
provider would have to provide a small bit of storage for the
numbers you need to be barred. Providers would need to have
such a list for each of those subscribers who use the method.
In reality that would mean all subscribers. In fact, the provider’s
options would be EITHER a store for each subscriber for his
“barred” numbers OR alternatively the provider could have a number
of local/area stores each with “barred” numbers as the headings,
each of these containing the numbers of the “complaining” subscribers.
What a fund of info for the invigilating authorities !

Jael says:
21 March 2013

I’ve been registered with the TPS for many years but the volume of unwanted sales calls has increased recently, with most showing as “international” on my phone’s display which I assume is to circumvent the TPS. Most of the calls are about PPI refunds and despite the fact that I’ve checked and I’ve never had a PPI policy, they keep insisting I do. I’ve had it all checked out and I haven’t and every time I ask them to remove my details from their system but I’m pretty sure it never happens.

The other calls I’ve started receiving have been from companies claiming I’ve recently been in an accident and made a claim. Well the last time I made a claim on my car was approximately 4 years ago when we had bad snow and 3 cars plowed into my car parked on the road outside my home. I dont know why I’m suddenly now getting calls and when I tell them that I’m quite sure there have been no accidents they put the phone down. I’m getting really fed up with it. The last 2 calls I actually told them there I dont own a car to try to get rid of them. I’ve had enough.

Jael says:
21 March 2013

Oh and to add to this, my 11 year old daughter has been receiving PPI texts on her mobile phone. That’s even more annoying than me getting them as it confuses her.

I am currently receiving about twelve calls per day to an exdirectory number from 8a.m. to 9p.m. Many are recorded messages inviting me to respond by pressing key. Others are live calls. Uusally it is PPI which I have never taken out. Sometimes the line is tied up for a long time after I have hung up. Some calls have number withheld others do have numbers available through 1471. I do not have the time of energy to report all such to to TPS or any other body. Often, they originate from outside the UK. I cannot let the answerring maching screen calls as I have a policy of picking up as quickly as possible. If I do not know the caller, I let them listen to the radio until they hang up.

Pete Parkins says:
21 March 2013

One further effect of these calls. My Health Center tried to contact me 3 times this morning. Each time I lifted and replace the phone as the number was withheld. These calls are having an increasing effect on normal phone usage.

I have just this second received a recorded message from Policy Experts.08452860630.

Tom, May I suggest you use the complaint option on the ICO web site. You’ve got the name, their number, plus date/time of call.

It may appear that you are sending a message into a black hole, but the more they get, the greater the likelihood of action.

BrianH says:
21 March 2013

The greatest problem we seem to be having is international withheld. Our Panasonic phones are used to block uk companies. We often get many in a day, if BT would at least pass through the country and area code, it would make it possible to distinguish between unwanted calls and overseas relatives.

robert says:
21 March 2013

Good idea but i guess sites like http://www.tellows.co.uk are more helpful!

I receive several promotional calls every day despite being registered with the TPS, it has now got the stage that we’ve paid for caller id and if it’s an international call or a number I don’t recognise I don’t pick it up. This creates an issue as I work from home for an international company and do receive calls from abroad, but I cannot take the volume of calls I was getting. I have several very unwell family members and the phone ringing is an alarm call in our house, so these calls are intrusive and upsetting. TPS should work but I understand it can’t legislate against international companies that break the rules. Some numbers come through as withheld and these can still be important eg my child’s school. Promotional phone calls are a problem for me.

Clint Kirk says:
21 March 2013

The number that sends me the most spam texts is, in fact, my mobile phone operator! Without fail, every single month on the 19th, I receive a text message from Virgin Mobile, saying “Good news! We have just added your monthly talk and text allowance!” I don’t need to receive that text message, as I know my monthly allowance always gets added on the 19th of the month anyway. What a totally useless message! I complained to Virgin and they rang me back saying they cannot stop sending it, and that it is a courtesy message to confirm that everything is ok with my contract. I don’t need such a confirmation: if I find they are unexpectedly in breach of the contract, I just terminate it, no big deal for me! What I really would like is a text message to tell me if I am getting close to using up all my allowance. But, unsurprisingly, they don’t do that service. They prefer me, of course, to inadvertently go over my allowance so they can charge me more.

The best way to stop anyone sending unwanted communications is to have it cause THEM at least as much inconvenience as it does to you. (I’ve gone to extreme lengths in this respect as described below.) Then you tend to find that they magically find a way to stop doing what they couldn’t stop before.

I’m with Orange and they advise customers to send spam texts to a special number. If there’s one for Virgin, why not forward them all there?

In the same vein, I’ve become so exasperated with repeated cold callers that I’ve:
a) VERY IMPORTANT: Checked whether they have my address
b) If they don’t said “Yes, I’m very interested in double glazing/new kitchen/solar panels” and arranged for them to send a representative to “my” address, the local police station.
c) This usually results in an irate – and very satisfying – phone call from the rep, whom I tell “I’ve tried every other way to get you to stop calling me and I’ll do this every time you phone me in future”
d) The calls from this source stop.

Richard Readings says:
22 March 2013

Might it be possible to make automated calls (i.e. no human being at the other end) illegal?

Boomer says:
22 March 2013

They are!
It’s unlawful to receive a recorded message without prior consent. Guess who deals with them? 😉

Folks, some of you need to stop using TPS as the scapegoat.
As I’ve mentioned before they simply manage the opt-out scheme. They’re not part of the government and they have no powers.
The TPS was set-up & is regulated by OFCOM as their service but it’s run by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Roger says:
22 March 2013

These phone calls are not good for the blood pressure – they are an offensive intrusion, they irritate me beyond measure. Why do I have to drop everything to go and answer the phone when all they want is to make money by wasting people’s time and adding to the cost of insurance? When will the government or the TPS do something to eliminate this scourge?