/ Technology

Nuisance calls crackdown: the progress so far

One year on from the first report by the Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force, we’ve found some good progress but there’s still more to do.

Last year the Government asked me to chair a task force to look at the causes of nuisance calls and what could be done to tackle this modern day menace that affects so many of us. Together with regulators and industry bodies, this task force set out 15 recommendations for businesses, regulators and the Government to help stop nuisance calls.

Today, one year on since these recommendations were published, we have been looking at what has been achieved in the last year. Here’s what we found:

Actions by businesses and industry bodies

There has been some progress from big business and the third sector. For example, SSE has made one of its directors accountable for nuisance calls, and telecoms providers are working with Ofcom to identify nuisance call activities. The Charity Commission, the Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Standards Board are working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

However, the majority of companies have not announced or committed to making nuisance calls a board level issue.

Actions for regulators

Earlier this year the Competition and Markets Authority published a report on the commercial use of consumer data and has committed to play a role in any future regulation on this issue. The ICO is revising its guidance and has mystery shopped firms making unsolicited marketing calls and texts. It will also be holding workshops and consultations in the New Year looking at the wording of marketing consent.

Meanwhile, Ofcom is developing a process to register mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service by text and has opened a consultation to review its policy on how it tackles silent and abandoned calls under the Communications Act.

Actions for the Government

The big step forward this year came when the Government made it easier for the ICO to fine companies who are found to be making cold calls, and we’ve seen a number of hefty fines over the past year.

However, there’s been no progress on giving the regulator more powers to hold board level executives to account if they’re found flouting the rules – a key ask of our Calling Time campaign.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting on the Government to consult on legislation to introduce Caller Line Identification for marketing calls, making it simpler for people to see who’s calling them.

As yet, an awareness campaign aimed at businesses has not been launched and the Government also need to assess new policies, to ensure they do not lead to nuisance calls.

There’s more to be done

Across the UK more than 300,000 people have backed our campaign to call time on nuisance calls. Despite some good progress, we’re still seeing high levels of unwanted calls and texts so more work still needs to be done to put an end to this everyday menace once and for all.

The Government, regulators and businesses need to continue to work together, with further action to cut nuisance calls off at source and make senior executives accountable if their company is caught flouting the rules.


BT ( and other providers) already have the technology to block nuisance callers but prefers to sell phones to do the same ( having already sold one or more versions which were manifestly not fit for purpose).Why should I pay £80 for them to do what they can / should do already?
Also the government is dragging its heels in putting effective financial legislation in place to deter those who ignore those with TPS in place

I have a Trucall which is supposed to block calls but all they do is leave a message.

Most nuisance callers simply hang up.

Those that leave a message, you simply reject the call and move on.

Robert C says:
27 May 2016

BT also charge me a significant fee / quarter for the 1471 service so that I can spot the caller’s number. I believe the service should be free – so that we can report the nuisance callers.

While reading throughthe comments on nuisance calls, now. I have just had a call from BT, trying to sell me a telephone that stops nuisance calls, or 2 or 3. Are BT monitoring these comments. Is’nt that nuisance calling by (BIG BROTHER). It seems we are being watched! Time. 14.57. 15.12.2015. The old git.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It’s not just nuisance call’s it is also nuisance mail that tell’s you, you have won £10.000. or more. This mail is generated from abroad where the rules are more relaxed. The Royal mail are obligated too deliver this mail and these busines’s know this. There should be a preference to stop this. Thousands of elderly people are scammed out of a lot of money every day, and when the crooks get a person who falls for there con, they then pass their details on to other scammers.

I hate the onse on mobiles which say you’ve won a prize and sneakily put in you’ve agreed to pay a monthly sum obviously added to your telephone bill

STEADman says:
16 December 2015

We are imprisoned in a self-contained Electronic Community!!!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Annabel Snowdon says:
17 December 2015

I no longer have my landline plugged in, but I still have to pay for it to retain my Broadband. They have got you all ways.

We have three phones in different rooms of the house. When I am not expecting calls on any day, I uncouple two of the phones and leave the one with the on/off switch in the off ( silent position) so when I am passing I dial 1471 to see what the last number was or if there is a message. For all expected calls I carry the hands free around the house and garden area.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

As a matter of interest, Duncan, are residents in the US plagued by computer-fix calls from Asia as reported by so many people in the UK? Do they block international nuisance calls, which is what people here have been calling for? Are there any controls in America on accident claim and financial reclaim calls which are still persistent in Britain?

I should also be interested to know how these things are managed in European countries that are more comparable to ourselves like France and Germany.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I was advised by BT to unplug my phone which would effectively stop nuisance calls. And all calls for that matter.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

i have up to 8 or more cold calls a week and thy ask to speak to someone who left my address over 10 years ago i inform the callers of this but thy keep on calling i had a call today the 29. 12.2015 the number calling is 01743581066

This comment was removed at the request of the user

They cause stress, sort these companies out now.

It is a data protection joke the way your phone numbers are given out.

I have a rule that I never answered any calls unless it is someone I recognised. If it is important they will leave a message.
However I think it should be law all numbers are display with real and correct contact numbers so that you can call back if necessary to have your number removed from their database. Also all cold caller companies should be registered to a governing body to keep them in line with a code of conduct. Therefore all phone numbers can be checked to see who is calling from this governing body website. If any company break the rules can be heavily fine and even custodial sentence.
I think more power should be given to heavily fine companies who abuse cold calling.

This means you might miss important calls from doctors, hospital, police, etc, perhaps a call to let you know a relative has had an accident?

Needed new phones so bought the BT 8500 Trio set with advanced call blocker. Guess what it works!! Had it since Sept 15, not a single unwanted call has got through. Some have tried as it logs all attempts, it automatically blocks withheld numbers and any not in the database get the opportunity to leave their name and you get the option to answer, block, add to database or go to answerphone. Not expensive either 49.99 for the three phones, even cheaper if you only want one. We used to get up to 10 unwanted calls a week, bought from John Lewis with two year warranty.

Given that some of these companies deliberately break the law to make money it is high time that the Director’s names, addresses and contact details were made public. If they were placed on the receiving end of lots of unwanted attention they may just think twice before setting up another company to start all over again – at times you have to fight fire with fire.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Robert C says:
27 May 2016

The only solution to these callers is LARGE FINES, that make their business non-viable.
Telephone providers make money out of these companies so I wonder if they are really on the side of the consumer. I have to pay BT for the 1471 service so that I can identify the caller – I believe this should be free to help the fight against nuisance calls.

I now make a point of registering every possible unsolicited call with both Which and then either TPS or Info Commissioner. I believe TPS could do more: they inform me that they have written to the offender giving them 14 days to reply and report to ICO as well. I would like to see a reply from TPS after 14 days showing the reply they received – it may be a load of old excuses and I’d like the chance to challenge their evidence.

I did receive a call on my mobile (which I only give to friends) and when I complained via their website it turned out to be a genuine market research call. I got a personal email reply and a genuine explanation of how they use random numbers to get a statistically valid sample. This is the only legitimate one I can ever remember.

Robert C says:
27 May 2016

forgot to say, my other pet request would be for companies found guilty of serious or repeat offences to have their phones disconnected – initially for 1 day, then 1 week, then a month. The disconnect would be without notice, to cause maximum disruption to their business, as they do to our lives. If they were a reputable business they’d be more careful to use TPS filtering.

Perhaps Which? could campaign to stop inertia selling, by which you would have to positively “Opt in” to your details being passed to other companies or used for other marketing purposes instead of trying to find the “Opt out tick box” .

Martin F

Gary Burgham says:
28 May 2016

Some cold callers (particularly those selling PPI or New Boilers in their nauseating pre recorded messages) suggest “…or press nine to be removed from our database.” How safe an option is that for the householder?
Please help…does anyone know?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Gary – Not only is it a waste of time to press nine but it actually confirms that they have contacted a live telephone line [from which the postal address can be derived] and can sell that information on. For peace of mind, don’t do it.

If you press nine to be removed, you could be calling a premium rate number on top of what Duncan and John have said.

Better to add the phone numbers to your phone’s address as z-ignore (puts it at the bottom out of the way) and just don’t answer them.

Yesterday I had a recorded message tell me I had won/might of won (wasn’t listening properly) a £500 ipad and to press 5 for whatever I had to do next.

Was that a new ‘opt in’ or ‘you must have entered a competition’ so we can call you.

Haven’t had that one before though.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Robert C says:
29 May 2016

I read today on the BBC that 85% of landlines have registered with TPS (a fat lot that seems to achieve !) but if this company was so keen to respect our wishes they would use TPS and not have called us in the first place. So I agree with John and Duncan

Sometimes I have been given an option of numbers to press – the usual 9 to be removed from the database – and another, which I think is 2/5? to get more info. So far haven’t pressed the 2/5 , Do you think pressing the alternative to 9 wd open the floodgates? Any ideas?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

In the 1950s the brief for the Facilities Working Party of the Joint Electronic Research Committee was to list the various requirements for the proposed new Electronic telephone exchanges. At that time the members had not expected that the “withheld” facility would be used to mask the identity for “unwanted” calls.
If however “withheld” was restricted to ex-directory subscribers then the problem associated with “UNWANTED CALLS” could be considerably reduced if not eliminated.
This would require the introduction of an identifier for “essential services” that would be displayed as “Corporate”. In this way all “true call subscribers” (with calling line identity) would be able, in the main, to distinguish between “wanted” and “unwanted” calls. This only leaves those that deliberately withhold any form of identifier.
Heavy penalties should be inflicted on those unlawfully using the “Corporate” identifier and these will be obvious to any subscriber receiving such a call. Penalties should also be imposed on those found to be withholding their identity.
I presume that this technical solution is possible since the signal generating the “withheld” must be technically generated. It must therefore be possible to generate a similar prompt to display the “Corporate” signal.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

How would you penalise such calls from overseas? Even if some countries cooperated I assume those who would seek to continue profiting from cold calling and were determined would simply arrange for calls to come from uncooperative states? Just like we have tax havens.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Seems like we could be wasting our breath, Duncan. I see little pointing in tilting at windmills. Legislation is only useful if it works. It seems to me making the best of technical solutions might be the only practical way forward. Such as call blockers. But, like burglary, we can lock doors and have a police force but it will never prevent theft. 🙁

Do we give up and ask Which? to devote its efforts to other campaigns? I would rather we find a solution.

We have people who are clever enough to break some of the most advanced security systems that the commercial world has come up with, so sorting out the nuisance calls problem might not be insuperable if the service providers cooperate.

Of course, if a solution can be suggested. So far it seems that is not, in practice, the case. So why don’t we ask the experts to see what workable solutions might be available or suitable to be developed, and when we get those get Which? to resume its campaign (if one is still necessary). Meanwhile, devote effort to other matters.

Even if a technical fix in the telecoms system eludes us at the present time, and if legislation is pointless because it cannot reach beyond national [or European] boundaries and is virtually unenforceable, surely something can be done to disrupt and stop the harvesting and selling of personal data. I am convinced that a lot of data is gathered from unscrupulous employees in customer service centres of one kind or another where customer information [e.g. credit card details] is given verbally and taken down or entered manually and it is easy to retain a copy. I am surprised that the use of telephone key-pad encryption is not obligatory. And what about the huge numbers of mail order forms that are filled in with customers’ details [including the three-digit ‘security’ code] and opened in post-rooms, possibly largely unsupervised? I cannot believe there is 100% honesty and security in such situations.

Beyond that there is still a need to educate and warn the public about the dangers of being too casual with personal financial information, especially PIN’s. Shorter validity for credit cards might be worth exploring so that key elements are changed at frequent intervals. The card validation system used for internet banking might be capable of extension to on-line buying and for payments [e.g. parking fines].

The credit card started life as our flexible friend but has become our potential enemy; there must be a way of making it friendly again.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

John. under the present circumstances what you suggest is a pragmatic solution. We should be educated to be more careful about the information we divulge, their should be legal requirements as to what information about us can be “harvested” without our consent, and where we have previously agreed to – knowingly or in ignorance – to our personal information being used by “others” that information should have a limited life and should be subject to permission renewal annually. It will take time to clean out some of the existing data, and much will never be, but we have to start somewhere. Let’s put effort into the achievable.

I take Duncan’s point about the politics of this but, in the present world, I see no hope of a consensus. I suspect North Korea might, for example, see a golden opportunity to make money by hosting cold-call centres on behalf of companies in other more compliant countries. Do you see them responding positivelyto pleas from other countries?

I appreciate that the companies are only part of the equation, Duncan, but as I said we would need their help to find an effective solution. Governments present and past have continued to allow companies to invade our privacy with marketing calls unless we out-out. That suggests that the commercial world takes priority over individuals. It’s not difficult to see that we have a political problem.

In the last 2 days we have received some 50 nuisance calls regarding REPLACEMENT BOILERS. These calls now have been going on for about 3 weeks. The majority only have 10 digits, not 11 digits; presumably ‘spoof calls’ eg 0147453869 0164792297
Call are also made from Withheld and International numbers. The recorded message is identical in all calls.
We have a CPR Call Blocker, which is not effective against the spoof numbers for it seems they never spoof the same number twice. Due to Overseas relatives & friends we are reluctant to block International Calls. Similarly as NHS Clinics and Vet practices frequently Withhold their number, they cannot be blocked.

This comment was removed at the request of the user