/ 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.

Comments
Scott Heldreich says:
10 December 2015

If you have registered with the TPS it shows you do not wish to revive cold calls ,so is the company responsible if an elderly person or even a younger person has an accident answering the phone to a call they did not want in the 1st place?

I am truly surprised Which took so long to take up this matter. It must be more than 10 years ago when I first wrote to Which regarding this matter. I also telephoned Trading Standards in circa 2007 regarding such calls but the person taking the calls simply spoke down to me with plutocratic condescension as if such calls never happened and I should check I was still on the TPS list! What a fob to get rid of a complaint.

However, I know I am still on such a list because today I receive fake calls from Pakistanis pretending to be Microsoft Software technicians saying I have a problem with my computer but using information about me which surreptitiously I know must have only come from information I presented when I applied to be on the TPS list. It is amazing how this information gets around – even to criminals!

David, the first convo Which? did on nuisance callers seems to be in August 2010 “Time to give cold callers the cold shoulder”.

There have been many convos since with very little achieved as we still get just as many unsolicited calls.

Sorry, but what is a ‘convos’ ???!!!! Speak English!

[This comment has been tweaked to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Hello Su, we use the word ‘convo’ here as short for a ‘conversation’. A conversation is the piece that we publish to start the discussion.

I hope that makes sense. Please try and be polite to others when you comment. Thanks very much.

I have seen a reduction in nuisance calls in the past five years and a move from people calling to recorded messages, but I’m convinced that Which? could have found a more effective approach.

It also disappoints me that BT does not seem to be seeking a technical solution to nuisance calls, preferring to make a profit from the sales of call blockers.

While writing this short post, I was interrupted by a nuisance call.

I think it is disgusting BT are allowed to get away with profiteering from peoples distress by selling them caller displays and phone blockers rather than make any effort to stop nuisance calls reaching them in the first place. It is also disconcerting to find people praising and recommending these phones.

I have not seen a reduction in nuisance calls, just different methods used.

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maria says:
14 December 2015

I paid 80 pound a couple of years ago to stop these calls his name was reece he has tried a couple more times to try and get money out of me they send a box you attach to your phone and when you get a call off these people you press a button to stop them calling it doesn’t work as they still get through

S. Francis says:
11 December 2015

BT is guilty of not doing anything to stop these nuisance calls. If they wanted it they would have found a means to stop it. If BT were sincere they could stop these phone calls without any other organisation involvement. These cold calls can be nipped in the bud.

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I am truly surprised it has taken Which more than 10 years to get into this subject matter! I first wrote to Which more than 10 years ago and although I eventually received a reply with respect to a another letter made some years latter the article that Which produced on those companies which break the TPS law was what today would be called very thin gruel.

I also telephoned the Trading Standards about local solicitors and law firms making unsolicited calls (they should know better) offering to write my Will for free but really hoping to be my executor for the day when I am dead and buried. As per always they pretended it was a mistake and guess what, those they used to make such calls were doing the job for nothing as part of some so-called “work experience” scheme. It just gets worse.

The only real organization to take any action was my local newspaper which published my letter together with a photo of a call centre whereas all Trading Standards gave me was to talk down to me with plutocratic condescension and suggesting I should check up to see I was still on the list.

I know I am on the list however, because I still receive calls from Pakistani crooks pretending to be Microsoft technicians telling me that there is something wrong with my computer unless I cough up £97, and I know the information they have on me comes from the TPS because of my subtle use of spellings that I gave TPS. It is amazing how information about us is passed around – even to foreign criminals!

Well done a home made trace is often the best, your spelling mistake one is one of many, incorrect date of birth year there are many tricks to trace unwanted mail and to deter the morons. All the Best

Setting up a framework to take action against individual directors may be useful: but will be largely pointless if the worst they can suffer is a fine, which will clearly be paid indirectly by the company by financial juggling. The legislation needs to follow US practice, and provide for prison as a possible penalty for commercial misbehaviour.

The problem with sending these people to prison is that we the tax payer will as always have to pick up the probably inflated bill to keep to keep them there, just as we do with all the criminal migrants which our government keep letting into our country,

I agree, prison not fines

I live in a flat and have had untold calls for home extetions,solar heating,Patios,double glazing etc.The most has been IT services who claim to be Microsoft which it is NOT true.The other that is high are what I would call ambulance chasers and finance claiming I am owed money and they would act on my behalf. Many other scams from all parts of the globe.

well I am so fed up with answering nuisance phone calls just as I settle down to watch the news on television between 6 and 7 O’clock in the evening.

I have bought a set of BT8500 phones which incorporate a call filtering system. This is money well spent as since then we’ve not had a single nuisance call, whereas we used to get several each day. The set of three (Trio) is currently available on special offer at BT, Currys and John Lewis, though you might need to check whether they’re in stock. Have just bought a set for my daughter for Christmas. She’s plagued with time-wasting calls too.

Dennis H Field says:
10 December 2015

Best Which? recommendation ever Doug. I too purchased BT8500 Advanced Call Blocker; thanks to Which? I received three calls today—one day last week I had eleven—as you will know, the phone doesn’t ring–but the calls are registered—all I do is delete them. I am quite disappointed when there are no calls to delete—it must be damned frustrating to the caller to be met with BT Call Guardian. My thanks to BT and Which? At 89 I learn something every day!!

I do not see why we, & especially the elderly, should have to purchase equipment to stop these “swines”. Many of us have elderly parents who live miles away & having to purchase & then drive 200 + miles to install it is not acceptable.

No point making ‘recommendations’! If WHICH? has no legal enforcement, then its suggested long-term prison sentences and VERY LARGE fines for ALL the directors will be no deterrent whatsoever.
The point is do these unsolicited ‘cold calls’ make sales? If so, it’s the public’s fault!
ALSO we are dealing with very big business here. Why should they give up these extremely lucrative (mal) practices just because the small WHICH? fly makes a few buzzing noises?
It seems to me that we have all created these evils by our own irresponsible behaviour towards ourselves and each other.

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Yes extremely huge fine and even prison sentences would stop these annoying calls. Its Ridiculous to blame the publics for the actions of these disgusting people, I never gave them my phone numbers or ask them to ring my phone yet they disturbs me during the week and weekends during my private hours with my family. It would be quite stupid and short sighted to attribute blame on me and others for these invasive practices of greedy and selfish companies. This small WHICH? buzz is not so small, there are hundreds of thousands of buzzes coming from it equal a very large Buzzzzzz.

That last line is OK up to a point but what about all the vulnerable who are only irresponsible because of a medical condition (eg the early stages of memory loss).The phone rings & they are alone listening & believing because they are incapable of making clear decisions.At least 1 in 4 of us will get like that eventually.
The concept of “let the buyer beware” does not apply in those circumstances.

My brother has just rang he is 95 and blind he has just had a call asking for his bank details he just put the phone down like I have told him to he gets these calls every day he is a D-Day veteran and did 10 trips on Russian Convoys and should not have to put up with these calls

This is a list of convos on nuisance calls since August 2010 (newest first). There have been a staggering 8305 comments but Which? still do not seem to be listening to us. I think most people will agree they do not want ANY unsolicited calls including marketing and charity calls. We are also still waiting to hear from Which? who these people are who think nuisance calls are useful. Nothing will change until ALL cold calling and selling of personal data is made illegal.

Nuisance calls crackdown: the progress so far – 300 comments
Calling time on nuisance calls in Scotland – 56
Have you had nuisance calls promising to stop nuisance calls? – 8
Scam watch: have you been called by a wine investment scam? – 8
Do you get nuisance calls to your mobile phone? – 88
Trade in personal data: it’s time to put a limit on consent – 85
We need action to cut off fake phone numbers – 46
Action needs to heat up on cold calls – 84
Scam watch: computer scammers scared me into paying £500 – 37
Has someone tried to fool you with a pension scam – 8
Do you report nuisance texts using SPAM? – 38
Watch out for scam calls about your pension – 30
New nuisance calls app helps you get your own back – 15
More nuisance calling companies to face prosecution – 29
Scam watch: Google Maps listing scam – 9
Watch out for phone scammers as ‘vishing’ soars – 13
Ed Vaizey: what the Government’s doing about cold calls – 103
Can you see the number that’s call you? – 107
FFA UK: beware of ‘number spoofing’ fraudsters – 31
Scam watch: ‘financial services’ cold callers – 5
Do nuisance calls cause you annoyance or anxiety? – 475
How many nuisance calls do you get a week? – 78
Scam watch: dodgy cold caller offers – 34
A call for evidence: how do you consent to marketing – 81
Scam watch: nuisance callers pretending to be the TPS – 18
Nuisance calls: big-name brands can be to blame – 48
Scam watch: look out for hoax callers – 36
Ed Vaizey: What we’re doing to stop nuisance calls – 17
Victory! Government announces a Nuisance Calls Action Plan – 43
Have you been cold called by a TPS Scam? – 273
The BT phone scam continues… – 37
Cracking down on rogue claims handlers and shoddy service – 2
Regulators must punish more nuisance callers’ – 32
Have you been called by a “BT technical support” phone scam – 304
TalkTalk: why we launched a nuisance calls blocking service – 61
New nuisance calls report rings in the changes – 37
Mike Crockart MP: support my Bill to stop nuisance calls – 17
Your view: purrrlease stop nuisance calling – 29
Lee Beaumont calls cold callers’ bluff with an 0871 number – 63
Nuisance calls & texts: the government has heard your calls – 128
Don’t let nuisance callers get away with it – complain – 87
Watch out for the pension liberation monster – 1
Nuisance calls & texts: we can’t hear you Ed Vaizey – 13
Companies that ignore the TPS are treading a fine line – 25
Are nuisance callers branching out to the Green Deal? – 9
Your view: no more nuisance calls – 37
Mistaken identity – ever felt misled by a caller – 54
More than a nuisance: the serious side of nuisance calls – 89
Your view: will we ever get rid of ‘Microsoft’ scam calls? – 37
The true cost of the ‘Microsoft support” scam call – 120
MPs, pick our Bill to tackle nuisance calls and texts – 28
How do you handle nuisance callers? – 140
Nuisance calls and texts: we’re dialling up the pressure – 66
We need tougher rules to crack down on claims handlers – 4
Your view: all hung up on nuisance calls and texts – 32
We’re calling time on nuisance calls and texts – 2234
Should we have to pay to stop nuisance calls? – 73
Mike Crockart MP: we need a one-stop shop for nuisance calls – 51
Making a noise about silent phone calls – 82
Wake-up call for nuisance phone calling companies – 42
Fed up with pesky spam texts? Let’s get rid of them – 21
How can we cut nuisance calls for good? – 820
A phone call to action – no more nuisance sales calls – 612
Why it’s time to cut off the technical support scammers – 158
The ‘Microsoft phone scam’ simply won’t hang up – 303
Microsoft late to raise cold scam alarm – 79
How do cold callers know so much about you? – 106
Are security software scams blown out of proportion? – 5
Time to give cold callers the cold shoulder – 64
Total Comments – 8305

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Thanks for putting together this impressive list, Alfa. You have my nomination for post of the year.

I recall that one of these discussions had a poll in which 100% of respondents (to the nearest integer) were concerned about nuisance calls. This is an issue where we all see a need for action.

Thanks Wavechange !!!

Duncan, I don’t understand your political reply as this is a consumer website.

After getting an email from Which? asking to vote yes or no to “Do you think the regulator should be able to individually fine rogue directors of companies that make unlawful nuisance calls?” I wanted to make the point that this subject gets discussed again and again with an overwhelming desire from over 8000 posts that we want nuisance calls to stop. To me, fining directors is just one more feeble attempt at being seen to do something that will achieve not a lot.

A year ago Which? came up with a 15-point plan to tackle nuisance callers. They are not calling for an outright ban on nuisance calls just a reduction as it would not be fair to responsible businesses. They want to adopt a consent opt-in or out which would be just as effective as the TPS and wide open to abuse.

Vanessa Furey said in a previous convo “We don’t think outright ban is the right solution to the problem of nuisance calls and texts because some people find telemarketing useful, and not all telemarketing calls are a nuisance or unwanted. A ban would adversely affect those companies that act legally and responsibly when they contact consumers.

I would still like a proper answer to these questions I asked:

Why is it legal to sell our personal data?
Who are the people who find telemarketing useful?
Who are the reputable companies that act legally and responsibly?
Why should charities and telemarketing companies be allowed to continue to harass us?

As long as it is legal to buy and sell personal data, nuisance calls are not going to go away. We shouldn’t have to worry whether we are opted in or out or buy call blockers. The vulnerable should not be put at risk of being conned out of their money. How would the elderly and vulnerable cope with opting out?

Doorstep cold calling has been made illegal and ALL telephone cold calling should also be made illegal.

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Duncan,

You sometimes write some excellent posts, but not when you go on about BB, capitalism etc. that many people would not want to interact with. There are other websites more suited to political opinions and you could have a field day on YouGov. Most posters here might refer to the government but they keep it low key.

Which? works hard for consumers in many areas but where nuisance calls are concerned, they just aren’t listening.

I hope I haven’t offended you but you did ask.

I agree with Alfa. The majority of the population would like the problem of nuisance calls addressed and that would be an issue whichever government was in power.

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alfa, good stuff. Surprising what stirs people up. I have not commented much because I don’t suffer from any such calls and, to be honest, enjoy dealing with the few that do arrive. I do have strong feelings though for those unable to cope, and those who are relentlessly called.
One conversation I did respond to was hosted by a Which? member – Vanessa I think – that sugeested some unsolicited marketing calls were acceptable. I asked why and recieved a less than convincing response.

If Which? are not committed to banning all unsolicited calls of this kind then what hope is there ?

Thanks Malcolm. There was a time when I also quite enjoyed playing along with these calls but it got beyond a joke.

I do feel slightly sorry for Vanessa as she has had to bear the brunt of our frustrations on the subject and I do think it would really good if Richard Lloyd answered some questions here as he is the author of this convo.

Cliff S cott says:
10 December 2015

I have never answered landline calls for about four years because of this problem and like most users have advised BT that if it were not for internet I would have it removed. With the technology available to them, it should be possible for them to trace and prohibit further calls even from blocked senders. I refuse any BT products other than 1571 to monitor personal calls, but doubt if they will act as long as they have sole ownership of the landlines. Any complaints to them are treat with disdain saying that that most come from abroad and there is nothing they can do about it. Very strange, seeing that the person I was speaking to was in India!!

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My only concern with this campaign is that 90% of nuisance calls received in my household are international numbers, how can Which begin to tackle that?

Cymro says:
10 December 2015

RE: “alfa says:”
WELL SAID. There is nothing “political” in the views that you express and many of us agree and would wish those that we trust (WHICH) to go further with their pressure.
The arogance of these invading organisations to believe that our installation of a means of communicating with those who WE WANT to communicate with, thus entitles them to a “free of cost” (0.001pence per call) piggy-back on your system to dump useless even dangerous lies into our earpiece.

The worst of this nowadays for me is not sales calls after hours — those have almost vanished. It’s whenever I have any dealings with any company, when I buy something, when I use my bank branch, pay a bill online or call a utility company, whenever I use any kind of service, and I’m constantly bombarded with phone calls, emails and texts asking me to rate the service, as though I have nothing better to do than devote half my free time to taking part in market research. It’s not even as if the surveys are worth anything when they’re just full of absurd and leading questions and often ask me to pin blame on a particular member of staff for issues in the company that the person has no influence over at all. This practice really has to stop.

Maybe a solution would be to change the cost of any phone call, to say a minimum of 25p for connection unless it is accepted by the recxiever by pressing a pre-selected button on the phone (e.g. the hash button) during the phone call then normal phone charges will apply. I am sure this is possible via existing software . Of course the disadvantage of this is leaving a message will cost 25p but this would be a small price to pay. The revenues collected could be used to reduce line rental costs etc besides pricing out of the market the cold callers.

Any cold call should be outlawed. Anyone making one should be charged with assault and put behind bars and barred from any business responsibility if found guillty.

B2B cold calling is fine B2C is the problem and so i fully support this campaign.

Giuseppe Turi says:
10 December 2015

At this time of year it is worse than usual with nuisance calls. Today I received several, the last one just a minute ago, as I was busy writing this. Some callers are getting ruder and more insistent than usual if one declines their offer and tries to end the conversation. It is really distressing, as the callers’ numbers are always withheld and one always fears it may be an official call or an emergency. The introduction pitch is regularly very long and elaborate, not admitting interruptions: it goes on forever. Often the phone rings with no one taking the call. I fear it is companies selling on one’s details which aggravates the issue. I wish something was done about it, and soon.

its funny that how your phone numbers are obtained by these people.. they are sold on for profit from the electoral role and by the councils also government depts. like dvla.
They need to be checked and fined heavily under the data protection act as we would be
for disclosing details from computer held data or paper records for profit..

AlanFR says:
11 December 2015

Tip! Make sure you’re not on the public electoral register – which is sold to commercial businesses. Don’t know if they can get phone number from this but wouldn’t surprise me if there an electronic directory enquiries on sale to.

P Wilson says:
11 December 2015

Either give the TPS the power to eliminate the companies making nuisance calls from home or abroad or disband it as a waste of public money.

Are you aware that TPS is funded by the companies that are causing us misery with nuisance calls? Perhaps we should have got rid of TPS years ago.