/ Technology

Can you see the number that’s calling you?

what's your number

The Which?-led Task Force on Nuisance Calls will soon publish its recommendations. Before then, the Government has made another concession to help you tackle unwanted phone calls…

In response to an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill tabled by Baroness Hayter in the House of Lords, the Government has promised to make it a legal requirement for companies to use Caller Line Identification (CLI) when they make marketing calls. See column 915.

Now, you’d be forgiven for not knowing what CLI actually is. I once saw an interview with TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding, who, after her technical people had explained what CLI was, exclaimed ‘oh, you mean it’s the phone number that’s ringing me’. That’s exactly what CLI is – the number ringing you appears on your phone’s caller display.

Standing up for caller display

Mandatory CLI is something we called for when we first launched our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, and goes further than the Government’s Action Plan which came about due to your support. And CLI matters, because without it not only is it hard for you to know who’s calling you, it’s also very difficult to report unwanted calls to the regulators.

In Autumn 2013, both the Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport and the All Party Group on Nuisance Calls backed our call for mandatory CLI. As did Alun Cairns MP who tabled a 10 Minute Rule Bill in Parliament.

In March 2014, the Government said it preferred a voluntary approach in its Nuisance Calls Action Plan. However, after we wrote to six leading trade associations requesting that they meet the terms of the voluntary Direct Marketing Association code of practice on CLI, we only got a positive response from one of them. Now, a year later, the Government has backed it too and all marketing calls will legally have to come with CLI.

Knowing who’s calling you

Caller display won’t solve nuisance calls – firms that already ignore the law will no doubt continue to do so and fail to send their CLI – but it will certainly help. If you have a landline phone with caller display, you’ll be able to see the number that’s calling you, other than those who have a legitimate reason to withhold it (such as the police or the NHS).

Meanwhile, Ofcom continues to investigate the more complex issue of how to stop marketing firms ‘spoofing’ their CLI, and ICO will try to take enforcement action against companies that continue to flout the rules.

Now there’s the small matter of getting this CLI concession implemented as soon as possible – hopefully in 2015. I think it’s time to make a call to the Government…


Anything that might help protect us from nuisance calls is very welcome but I wonder if this will help the many who have registered with TPS to avoid marketing calls.

If companies are breaking the law by ignoring the fact that you are on the TPS register, will they be good enough not to withhold their number when calling? Will the scammers oblige by providing their phone numbers? That seems unlikely.

As I see it, the only way to resolve the problem of nuisance calls is to make unsolicited calls illegal and work with BT etc. to track down the offenders.


I completely agree with you Wavechange on making ALL unsolicited calls illegal. It is the only way to stop the misery it causes to so many people.

If Baroness Hayter thinks this little law will make any difference, she obviously doesn’t answer her own phone.


Wavechange, Completely agree. It should be made illegal to make unsolicited calls to private numbers for the purposes of marketing and “surveys”. Perhaps with an opt in if you don’t mind being pestered everyday.
The TPS is useless, I’ve been registered with them for years and I still get plenty of sales calls and sales calls under the guise of surveys.

The big problem both with TPS and any legislation to outlaw unsolicited calls is that many of these calls come from nuisance callers abroad who won’t be bound by our systems and laws. Don’t really know the solution to that other than perhaps have an international call acceptance on/off switch on our phones.


Chris – As was pointed out to me recently, it is already illegal for companies to make direct marketing calls if we have registered with TPS. However, without effective enforcement, legislation is worthless.

Telephone market research is legal, unfortunately, and I believe that we have been told that Which? has not intention to take action except where the rules are broken, for example when calls purporting to be market research are in fact marketing calls, which is very common.

In my view, nothing less than a ban on all unsolicited calls is acceptable, and the phone service providers should be required to provide the information needed to take action against organisations and individuals so that it is simply not worth the risk to make unsolicited calls.

I would be happy for individuals to opt-in to receive market research and marketing calls, though the danger is that this would provide scope for ‘mistakes’.

It is very sad that BT is making a profit from selling call blockers rather than taking action to stop nuisance calls.

I’m not receiving nearly as many nuisance calls as I used to but I still want to be vocal about this for the benefit of those who are, especially the disabled, elderly and those who work night-shifts. According to Patrick, we are due to hear some positive news from Which? soon.

surfit.uk says:
6 December 2014

Chris, I have a display on my phone and simply don’t answer if I don’t know the caller. If it’s important they can leave a message and I can get back to them. Simples !

Gerry says:
11 December 2014

Letting an unrecognised CLI go answered certainly isn’t the answer to nuisance calls as far as I’m concerned.

It still means I’ve been disturbed (or woken up if I were a shift worker), and it still busies my line for genuine callers.


Many telephones now let you choose to switch unidentified calls (those without a valid or an unrecognised CLI) direct to the answerphone. You can then invite the caller to leave their name, number and business if they wish you to return their call. So no uninterrupted sleep off shift duty!

Gerry says:
11 December 2014

@ terfar

Wrong, wrong, wrong !

Why should VICTIMS of this anti-social and illegal behaviour be expected to pay for an expensive special telephone / answering machine, to pay a monthly fee for CLI and to pay to return genuine calls?