/ Technology

Win! Directors of nuisance calling firms face £500,000 fine

Success! Company bosses will be held personally accountable facing a fine of up to £500,000, if their firm is found to be making nuisance calls.

It’s just over three and a half years since Which? launched the Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts campaign. This campaign is undoubtedly our longest running of recent years. And with 460,000 supporters backing the campaign, it’s also one of our most popular.

So, on Sunday when we heard the news that the government will make directors of firms behind nuisance calls personally accountable, we hailed this win for both those who have backed our campaign and for the hundreds of thousands that are plagued by this modern menace.

Fines for directors

As some of you will know, director level accountability is a something we’ve been pushing for some time now. So as well as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) being able to issue fines of up to £500,000 to firms found to be making nuisance calls, by Spring 2017 the ICO will also be able to issue fines up to £500,000 to the people running them.

So far we’ve seen a government action plan to tackle the problem, a task force on consent to receive marketing calls, new powers for the ICO, the ability for the ICO to hit companies with bigger fines and rules requiring companies to display their number when making a call – ending those troublesome ‘Number withheld’ calls.

And in Scotland, we’ve also persuaded the Scottish Government to get to grips with tackling nuisance calls with a new commission beginning work this autumn.

Throughout this campaign, we’ve hassled, cajoled and constructively worked with three different Ministers to get these results. We’ve had MPs tabling questions and Bills in Parliament, helped parliamentarians run their own inquiry into the issue and persuaded a Select Committee chair – live on Radio 5 Live – to tackle this problem.

Not forgetting that our nuisance calls complaints tool has enabled thousands to register their complaints, issuing each individual complaint to the right regulator to take action.

Nuisance calls campaign

When I look back three and a half years, my main memory of launching this campaign were debates about whether we should do it at all. We were already part of a working group with the relevant regulators, government officials and industry leaders committed to tackling nuisance calls. There was a lot of debate about what we could really achieve. We couldn’t stop nuisance calls and texts, could we? So why try?

But the message from Which? members, supporters and the general public was strong and clear. Which? needed to get involved. We could see that while this would be a long battle, the existing talking shops weren’t working – and all those people responsible for the issue needed a big kick from Which? to demand that something must be done.

In the last year alone we’ve seen more fines for nuisance callers than ever. In the year to September, the ICO has issued fines totaling £1.5m to firms for more than 70 million calls and almost 8 million texts. The new rules targeting company directors should have a much bigger impact, and prevent the rogues who sidestep the rules by closing one business only to re-establish under new credentials to avoid ICO fines.

Next steps for nuisance calls

So is the campaign over? Certainly not. The fact remains that people are still pestered by this everyday menace.

Which? needs to make sure that these new rules are introduced effectively and that the ICO uses its new powers to crackdown on company directors spamming us with nuisance calls and texts.

We need to see what else can be done to deliver a significant drop in these calls and texts. A number of the telecoms companies are coming forward with plans to block these calls. So this could be an area that requires much more attention.

While today we’ll celebrate this win, tomorrow we get on with continuing to call time on nuisance calls and texts. We couldn’t have achieved as much as we have without so much backing from our supporters – so where do you think we should take the campaign next?


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I have just received a ‘phone call from someone wanting to discuss issues with my computer. When I asked who was calling a second time the woman asked was I deaf? I immediately ceased the opportunity and replied “well yes I am” and the line went dead! The telephone number was 001 198 190 2611.

The Which action has resulted in a significant drop in nuisance calls from British firms. It has also become a lot easier to challenge any of them that do get through. However, the nuisance calls from India are on the increase and they are particularly threatening when they realise that you won’t budge to their demands. Their strategies are becoming ever more threatening but I suppose that is the result of extreme capitalism that has now become acceptable and become supported by the mainstream media and organisations such as UKIP and therefore the government.

My house phone shows the number thats ringing; if I don’t recognise the number then I don’t answer the phone . I figure that if it’s important then they will leave me a message on my answer phone. Same goes for my mobile phone.

The fine should be £1,000,000 or more. I am try of my 82 elder Mother being bother by these nuisance calls “I call you because you had an accident”…, calls from INDIA/PAKISTAN (Cold Calling) bothering her. Enough !!!!

cold calling to sell you something is a pain and should be stopped and fined , but that’s not going to stop the callers that are trying to empty your bank account and or steal your ID , how are we going to stop this ?

Thank you for all your work, well done. JuSt wondering where does the money from the fines go?

As per the ICO:-
“Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).”

I have been rung repeatedly by the same number for weeks despite being supposedly ex-directory and have asked them to remove my details which they clearly haven’t done. They have spoken to me on every subject to boiler replacement to TV charges and yet it is the same telephone number.

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Some nuisance calls are to random numbers so having an ex-directory phone number is no protection, unfortunately.

To reiterate @user-66219‘s comment, you can also report the number to the relevant regulator here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/

Does it cover calls to mobile phones? I have a company that keeps phoning my mobile phone, just again yesterday! The number is 0121 421 6687
It’s a brilliant thing to happen as they are the bane of peoples lives. How does it work if it’s a withheld number? Well done Which.

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A number of these nuisance calls are generated overseas, what, if anything, can be done about these calls?

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Fine them into non existence!

The cold callers are getting very crafty, they are using numbers that look like local numbers, I put the phone down on one guy, he then had the audacity to call me back and told me I didn’t know how to answer the telephone, the biggest one at the moment is them saying they are BT, I am a member of the telephone preference service too,

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Good to impose huge fines on these cold-calling companies BUT we have to identify them first… not always easy!

I’d be far more impressed IF any companies had actually been fined to the current maximum. The watchdog has no teeth, has successfully prosecuted only a dozen or so companies and even those have largely escaped with nominal fines. Bankrupt a few and the rest might take notice, it might even make those who simply go out of business and start up again, think about a change of career but as things stand it is the usual pointless threats. These people are doing this because they believe it will help them make money out of us, and until the risks outweigh the potential profits they will continue to plague us. They know as well as we do that the courts rarely if ever hand down maximum sentences for any crime? I despair the number of dreadful animal abuse cases where after all the effort of finally getting them to court and proving the case the court hands down a trivial fine or the infamous ‘suspended’ sentence, which effectively means, do it again in the next year and maybe we’ll take action. Pathetic, about as useful a deterrent as ‘banning’ under age drivers.

A cracking campaign … but nuisance calls still invade our lives. BT should organise a system that enables you to press the # button whilst the nuisance call is in progress… thereby alerting the system and registering the call …so action can be taken. Surely with today`s technology this is achievable.

I used to get them every day,
but we got a phone that
blocks them ,best thing ever worth every penny

Richard Woods says:
4 April 2017

I find it intolerable that the regulator has not acted and claims his hands are tied when these cowboys use international services. The simple fact is that ALL our land telephones services run on BT network, whoever the arbitrager. And they all have international partners who benefit from this traffic. In addition this is NOT one-to-one telephone traffic which might attract common carrier protection; these automated calls are ‘content’ being beamed into our homes. The operator as well as the company should be responsible.

How do you fine, someone that don’t leave their number, mask their identity or are in a country, where British law is unenforced? Its a “toothless tiger” and a waste of everyone’s time and efforts.

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I have been having calls in respect of someone whom I don’t know from overseas callers for over 3 years now and no matter what I SAY to them they either hang up or just ignore me it is extremely annoying and I cant seem to stop it

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Some years ago, we were inundated with calls for a local business. They had sent out customer letters with an incorrect phone number pre-printed on them that happened to be ours. We used to tell their customers they had misdialled until one man informed us of the number he was sent. After informing the company of their mistake, the calls eventually stopped.

Nothing will happen, I guarantee that in 12 months time, not one director will have been fined!