/ Shopping, Technology

Trade in personal data: it’s time to put a limit on consent

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There have been a number of stories recently about people who’ve found themselves bombarded by nuisance calls from charities after ending up on their fundraising lists. What should be done to curb these calls?

One of the stories featured a man who had filled in a ‘lifestyle’ survey and forgot to tick the ‘do not share my details’ box. His details were then passed on to other companies, including a gambling company. In other examples, people have donated to one charity and have then been contacted by other charities who have been passed their contact details.

Of course, charities certainly aren’t the only ones who might buy or sell your contact information. There are countless points in our daily lives where we’re asked for our permission to share our personal details with ‘selected third parties’. Often you’re asked to tick or untick a box about third parties, and occasionally some companies will simply say that by signing up to a service you’re effectively giving your consent to your data being shared. From that point on your details become part of a list that can be traded or passed on.

Giving and revoking your consent

Last year Which? chaired a task force to look at the issues of consent and lead generation. The task force reported back with 15 recommendations for the Government, regulators and businesses to take up.

These recommendations include making it easier for you to revoke your consent after it has been given, regardless of whether it was intentional or in error. And not just for one company – your statement that you don’t want to be contacted should be passed all the way along the data chain if your consent has been passed on.

The task force also recommended that where you’ve agreed for other third parties to contact you, that consent should be valid for a maximum of six months. This would mean that even if you did accidentally agree to hear from other companies, after six months any new companies shouldn’t be contacting you.

Trade in personal data

It really is shocking how easily you can lose control of your personal data as a result of it being shared or sold on. The trade in personal data is a massive business and it’s one of the biggest contributors to nuisance calls. That’s why fundraising charities must swiftly implement the recommendations from the nuisance calls task force and the regulators should come down hard on anyone caught breaking the rules.

Have you ever accidentally given your consent to be contacted by ‘selected third parties’? Do you think this is the origin of many of the nuisance calls you get?


Aren’t the government just,as bad by selling our details off to anybody since we are all on the open register!!!

Donna; If you’re talking about the Council register of voters, you can elect to opt-out of the ‘open’ register.

I became bombarded with unwanted PPI and personal accident calls after changing my mobile phone provider from EE to Vodafone. After adding 20 unwanted numbers to my mobile phone’s blacklist, I ran out of space and had to upgrade my phone so I could continue blocking these wretched cold callers. Do mobile phone companies sell-off the details of their customers?

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You are quite right, Duncan. It’s there in the small print, paragraph 13!

The only nuisance calls I can recall receiving on mobile, apart from wrong numbers, are from Vodafone itself. They have had an ultimatum about not calling me for marketing or market research purposes and they have respected this. I have no idea why I don’t get nuisance calls like other people do.

The PPI debate is emotive as is the energy companies – govt linked. We are harrassed and bombarded daily by such calls both on landline and mobile with little chance of stopping them…sadly. On the few occasions we do speak they just laugh and hang up….not good and stressful.

Paul R says:
14 September 2015

Pretty simple solution to this problem. If it is an automated call, don’t hang up. Let the robot rabbit on, it’s costing the company money to make the call, brilliant if they’re calling your mobile. If it is somebody, not a robot, on the other end, I just tell them to hold for a while then put the phone down by the tv. The caller will give up, eventually. It doesn’t stop the calls being a nuisance, but if enough of us do it, it’s got to be less cost effective for the company to continue, I’m pretty sure it will eventually stop.

I think this way of dealing with nuisance calls is the one used by Paul Lewis of Money Box.

Years ago for the Red Nose Day appeal I bought a fluffy red ball with a face on it. When tapped it guffaws with raucous laughter. When particularly annoyed by a nuisance caller I have tried this….

Unfortunately many of the cold callers are using the internet to make the calls, it costs them little, there should be a way to send unwanted calls back to the originator, it cannot be beyond the wit of man to find that solution?
Having said that, BT could block the callers but it won’t because it makes money from them on your landline.

I am inundated with spam e mails after using “we buy any car “. Com if you try to unscribe you get even more any ideas I’m getting about 150 per day absolute nightmare !

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I was bombarded with texts and cold calls after having witnessed a car accident. Some of the callers even knew the date of the accident. Where did they get my mobile number from, do you think? I gave it out just once: to the 999 call operator. Go figure!

You might have spotted our Richard Lloyd on BBC Watchdog last week talking about nuisance calls. If not, you can watch the feature here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3BB80T6jWwm3r61JdXyR20G/company-response

Not so long ago we heard about a company that had racked up six million nuisance calls. They have been fined but I find it amazing that their phone service was not suspended long ago.

When is Which? going to recognise that while market research calls might be legal, they are also nuisance calls?

if i get an unwanted call on my mobile, I add it to the blocked senders list which hopefully means they cannot call me again.

My technique is usually one of the following:-
(a) If the caller is polite and actually apologises for disturbing me I say “Oh no, that’s quite all right, I’m not busy just now and I like chatting with people on the telephone although, of course, I never actually buy anything that way…” Result caller rings off, as a rule.
(b) Much oftener, the caller immediately starts demanding personal details, in which case I instantly state my age – over 80 – and 9 times out of 10, the caller rings off. This I take it is because over 80s, like small chi1ldren, are considered incompetent in law but it’s a great convenience – as well, of course, as in my case being perfectly true.
(c) On the occasion of a caller – one in ten, if that – who hasn’t given up on either (1) or (2), I firmly state that all financial matters are referred straight to my son-in-law, who isn’t currentlyavailable and that I don’t understand them myself. This is cheating, really, but is very effective.
(d) If none of these is effective I say “Sorry, there’s somebody at the door” and I PUT THE PHONE DOWN. For some time.
I feel sorry for the people who can’t find any job other than making these useless calls and I don’t want to get them sacked because of me – in fact, I hope that they never are – but really, one has to defend oneself somehow!