/ Money, Technology

ICO: what we’re doing about nuisance PPI calls

Phones being cut

Have you been nuisance called by claims management companies trying to get you to reclaim PPI? Here’s Steve Eckersley on what the ICO is doing to crack down on them.

Nuisance calls annoy most people, but in many cases they can leave individuals feeling distressed and frightened.

We’ve heard about companies that phone people in the middle of the night, ask to speak to deceased relatives or ring repeatedly after being asked to stop.

Regulating the law around marketing calls is one of the roles of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

We listen to concerns raised by individuals about nuisance calls, provide advice to organisations and take enforcement action against those that break the rules.

Since the start of this year we’ve issued £930,000 in fines to companies which broke the law when making marketing calls.

PPI cold call fines

Calls relating to PPI claims account for a significant number of the concerns that people tell us about. In 2015, approximately 20% of the total number of concerns we received about unwanted live calls, automated calls and text messages were in relation to PPI. That’s 32,739 out of 166,663 of them.

We take action where we find PPI cold calls and texts have broken the law. Just last month we issued Swansea firm Falcon and Pointer with a £175,000 fine after it made millions of automated calls about PPI.

Pam, who recently commented here on Which? Conversation, has been affected by PPI calls among others:

‘I regularly get several calls per day. They are about PPI claims, or my computer needs fixing […] Today’s was from a “solicitor” about a car accident reported from my address – pretty strange since I live alone and haven’t driven for some years.

‘Some elderly people are becoming afraid to answer for fear of falling victim to one of the scams which are reported in the media every week. It needs to be stopped.’

What the law says

There are two types of marketing calls:

  • Live calls: unwanted marketing calls from a real person.
  • Automated calls: pre-recorded marketing messages that are played when you answer the phone.

Organisations are not allowed to make live marketing calls to people who have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), unless individuals have given prior consent. In addition, organisations must not make calls to individuals who have previously said they don’t want those calls.

The rules on automated calls are stricter. Organisations can only make automated marketing calls to people who have specifically consented to receiving automated calls from them.

What can I do if I am receiving nuisance live marketing calls?

  • Tell the caller you don’t want to receive marketing calls from them. If the organisation continues to call you can report your concerns to us.
  • Register for free with the TPS, a list of people who have opted out of receiving live marketing calls. If you register with the TPS and continue to receive nuisance live marketing calls 28 days after registering, you can complain either directly to the TPS or report your concerns to us.
  • To avoid nuisance live calls you should check privacy statements when you provide your phone number.

What can I do if I am receiving nuisance automated calls?

By far our greatest allies in the war against the nuisance callers are the people who report them to us. You can report calls to us and other regulators using Which?’s nuisance call reporting tool.

Have you had nuisance calls about reclaiming PPI? Do you report them to the ICO?

This is a guest contribution by Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). All opinions are Stephen’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


It is quite pathetic really. We want nuisance calls to stop but the powers that be just chip around the edges. Do they really think eventually we will end up with just ‘legitimate’ calls?

3 months ago, I listed 36 types of nuisance call that I have received. No doubt there are countless others.
I also counted 71 conversations on nuisance calls here on Which? with over 8500 comments and there have been many more since.

When are the powers that be going to listen?

The end result of nuisance calls is to exhort money out of you one way or another. You have no way of knowing if a ‘legitimate’ call is who they say they are, so vulnerable people will always be at risk.

As I have said many times before, as long as it is legal to buy and sell our personal data, nuisance calls will never stop.


I agree with Alfa. We need to put an end to nuisance calls and the ICOs approach is inadequate to achieve this.

Fines are unlikely to work because they can be treated as an operating expense. What would work is to suspend telephone services for companies that make nuisance calls for a day, a week, a month or as long as necessary to make them compliant.

Furthermore, householders should be require to opt-in rather than opt-out of receiving marketing calls.

Let’s have this country run for the benefit of its citizens rather than companies.


In the previous conversation on this topic I suggested that fines were pointless as they are seen as part of the cost of operating the nuisance business. I proposed disconnecting the phone service for a specified period; some thought this might be illegal, but on the basis that if you don’t pay your bill you can be disconnected I don’t see this argument.

However, there is little point in moaning about the situation unless there are clear ways in which effective action can be taken. When action, like the above, is proposed then we (Which?) should be discussing these with the ICO and seeking means to implement them – or reasons why they can’t.

The big problem I see is when companies make these calls from overseas. I do not see how this can be stopped – and determined UK companies may just move offshore. Can this be dealt with?

So time to make positive suggestions and get positive responses – isn’t it?


I should be interested to know the recovery rate on the fines imposed. Withdrawal of telephone service should be one of the sanctions available.

Mair Taylor says:
13 April 2016

Put handset to one side & let them talk to themselves.
If they are offering PPI tell them yours has already been claimed & the money has been spent on a great holiday..
If they are pretending to be from Microsoft say you haven’t got a computer anymore.
The vehicle accident is a new one to me but I would tell them my car was scrapped a number of years ago.
One of my friends have kept them talking for about 30mins or more incl asking them to hold whilst she went to get herself a cup of tea & sandwich.
Finally if all else fails just put the phone down on them

Dennis says:
13 April 2016

To help minimise these calls, set your landline to reject anonymous calls. This is easily done and is often a free service. This should feduce the problem significantly.
You can also pick up the phone and dial a code number which blocks the last caller for ever. If you should change you mind just dial a different code to unblock them.
These two actions should reduce your problem by about 90%.
Good look.


I want to say right away I agree with everything alfa has said . I waited to see the posts being put on this Convo ,as, like alfa says this is MK 5 or more of the same basic complaint by the public . Being a totally down to earth person (well nearly ) in the (American expression)= dont pee on my leg and tell me its raining mold I can only tell the posters–its going to get worse as it isnt a restriction on marketing going to happen but a massive expansion of advertising etc . On the chance the government departments arent looking (some hope ) and that somebody will take offence to the truth I will use another US expression =publish and be d***ed — quote- TTIP inside info — it should be matter of concern to public interest groups that REGULATORY cooperation will be Managed almost ENTIRELY by Trade Bureaucrats . According to the newly released chapters the Commission ,for instance, will offer cooperation with the US and BB on new Laws ,well before any elected assembly is involved . Such an approach under a trade deal is a terrible idea for Democracy — and it will present a serious obstacle to REGULATION in the public interest. TTIP tilts the balance towards benefiting BB and costs for society as a whole .giving BB more power risks undermining the rights we have today and the protections we need tomorrow such as laws to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals .standards to protect data online or regulations to protect our quality of air ,to mention just a few . Regulatory cooperation is clearly an attempt by trade officials to put their interests first along with their allies in BB —the Commission,s objectives with TTIP are crystal clear ,bypassing democracy in favour of the few ( ! % ) at the expense of many -end quote . I have more on this but will stop there John , Ian, wavechange etc you put up many government departments/ semi government departments , non government departments (NGO) etc as organisations to quote and look up to, to rely on as the “protection of the public ” I dont, as I think they dont , but dont you see where its all heading ? iT wont get better just worse and if I posted more I could go into deeper detail ,as to why .


Hello all, we published this story on the PPI compensation time limit yesterday:

The introduction of a time limit on PPI compensation claims will set a dangerous precedent and could lead to a further increase in nuisance calls, Which? warns.

There is concern that a two-year time limit for PPI complaints will set a dangerous precedent and result in banks having little incentive to pay out compensation swiftly and directly to consumers in future mis-selling scandals. It is also highly likely that introducing a time limit for PPI complaints will result in a huge increase in nuisance calls from Claims Management Companies (CMCs).

Before the FCA goes ahead with any proposals for a time limit, Which? wants to see: a simpler process for making a claim, with banks required to accept complaints electronically tighter regulation of CMCs, with directors personally accountable if their company breaks nuisance calls rules more information published about how firms have handled claims to date, the amount of redress outstanding and how the FCA will judge the time limit to be a success.

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/04/which-warns-of-the-dangers-of-a-ppi-time-limit–439229/


At least PPI nuisance calls would stop in 2 years time.

As Which? sponsors TV programmes, why not advertise how to claim PPI at the same time?

Pauline Holbrook says:
14 April 2016

I’m afraid the tps do nothing I still get calls everyday. I did complain but they ignored it. So TPS you are rubbish !!!


Signing up for TPS has reduced these calls by 98% so worth giving it at go. (This was for my mobile number). Gave up on a landlline ages ago because of these calls.

Robert says:
14 April 2016

We have four phone numbers at the shop and some days we get constant calls trying to sell us cheaper this and cheaper that. If I wanted the services of these companies I would ask them to give me a price, as I don’t want to do business with these people I do not want my time wasted answering these stupid calls sometimes twenty in a day. My father who is in his nineties still gets these calls and I have registered the shop numbers and my father’s home number with the TPS and this makes no difference.

It is time that it was made illegal this will stop people’s time being wasted and stop the unnecessary anxiety suffered by older people.

Vynor Hill says:
14 April 2016

I had a new one today. A determined lady wanted me to provide her with a gas meter reading. She provided my answer phone with a telephone number and a web site. She wanted my address and post code for some reason. Since I have recently had a gas bill, I know this to be a fraud, though what, I couldn’t say. Maybe the phone call is a premium number, maybe the web site infects computers. Anyway, I pass this one on to you for what its worth.