/ Technology

Do nuisance calls cause you annoyance or anxiety?

Landline phone

Making change happen can take days, months or years – and thanks to the support of our community and our campaign supporters, our joint work on the menace of nuisance calls is continuing to pay off.

Earlier this year we secured action from the Government to tackle nuisance calls and texts. Some of these changes included potentially lowering the threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to take action against cold calling firms so that calls only have to cause annoyance rather than ‘substantial distress’.

Other key wins included introducing new regulations to let Ofcom and the ICO share information on rogue companies. The Ministry of Justice was asked to consult on whether PPI cold callers should face fines of up to 20% of their annual turnover. And we at Which? were asked to lead a task force reviewing how people consent to receive marketing calls.

Well, since the last task force meeting two weeks ago, a lot has happened. Two MPs asked David Cameron what the Government was doing to tackle nuisance calls during Prime Minister’s Questions, a further 15,000 petition signatures have been received for our campaign, and the Government has confirmed firms could face stricter fines through the launch of a consultation.

Stricter nuisance calls fines

The six week consultation will consider lowering the legal threshold before firms responsible for nuisance calls and texts can be hit with fines of up to £500,000.

The law currently requires the ICO to prove the conduct of a company caused consumers ‘substantial damage and distress’. The Government either wants to reduce this to causing ‘annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety’ or by removing the test altogether. Either would represent a very important reform to the law.

The consultation closes on 7 December so please keep sharing your examples of how the calls cause you annoyance or anxiety. We’ll be submitting evidence on your behalf to ensure this key proposal is turned into action.

Changing the rules so it’s easier for regulators to punish the companies making nuisance calls is a big step forward and a victory for the 129,000 of you who have already supported our Calling Time campaign.


We get nuisance calls every day. Many are about new boilers and “free” insulation. We also get the scammers about computer problems, alarm systems, and car accidents. They usually ring at lunch times or early evening when we a re cooking or eating.
Even with caller identity some callers now use fictitious numbers to make us answer the phone.
The worst are ambulance chasers. My 89 year old deaf mother-in-law picked up one of these, but only heard the words “car accident”. She knew that her son was driving at the time and panicked. She had to ring around to check that he was OK.
These people are despicable animals who need fining heavily for such practices. It is well known that several so called respectable organisations are involved in ambulance chasing. They are :
Insurance companies, Solicitors, doctors, the police, and the judiciary in these claims. This needs blowing wide open and heavy fines imposed

We receive repeated calls with nobody at the other end and ring back number withheld. Additionally we receive calls,always from Asian people and all want to sell something or worse. We are so fed up that as soon as we hear an Asian on the phone we either put the phone down or say ‘no thank you’.
We are not racist at all and no doubt we will lose genuine calls along the way but the constant calls are making us rude which is something we prefer not to be. There seems no way to stop these calls so far despite signing up to a site that supposedly stops such calls. I understand that these calls can be stopped if they originate within the UK so we assume the ones we do get are from outside it.

John Seddon says:
5 December 2014

In the past week I’ve had calls from boiler repacement companies, property investment companies from UK and Switzerland, door and window replacement company, companies claiming I’ve have a valid claim for PPI when I have never had any, six solar panel companies where one chap informed he was going to keep calling me untill I say yes, I wonder why he does not understand a polite no thankyou as he then insists they are a reputible company that have many satisfied customers. Calls from abroad telling me I have a computer fault and they can fix it for me and they work for Microsoft on my windows 7 computer when I use XP still and they are on a unavailable number so that you cannot re-check their number. Last of all was a company claiming to sell a service to stop cold calling calls who could not explain how their system works. Their needs to be more regulation reguarding sales cold calling and I hope soon as I think I must be on some list thats being passed round.

Linda Holter says:
5 December 2014

Yes agree with all of the above constant calls from whoever quite often they hold the number or when you say hello goes dead as they want you to call them back so you’re paying for the call and not them, surely a new legislation can be brought in to stop all these nonsense calls, every friend I speak to says the same – politicians take note!!!

Maureen says:
5 December 2014

It would be so good to end these constantly annoying calls.
I am a relative carer of three people with ill-health and disabilities.
The callers do not take any notice when I request them in a polite
manner to not call again and the calls continue, so one reverts
to being rude.
This approach is where most if not all of us end up as the calls
continue on after being told, to not call again and that we
are on a list that is so-pose to be protect us from these cold callers.

To get any relief from these callers, I find I am more and more leaving
my phone off the hook, if we are are all at home.

I think you are doing a wonderful job and hope you
achieve to get these banned.

Andy Miles says:
5 December 2014

This is merely a symptom of a much more pernicious disease. People have adopted a totally false view that making money takes priority over everything else in our society, and justifies the most vile antisocial behaviour, such as these unsolicited “business” calls. The only legitimate purpose of any businesses within our society is to support the needs of our citizens, by providing jobs, goods, services, and tax revenues. Too many companies, these days, are just antisocial parasites feeding off the body of our society, avoiding tax, ripping off customers, and employing people on very unfavourable contracts of employment. This must end.

Any enterprise that is not a social enterprise, is an anti-social enterprise.

Here here, well said!

Big energy companies are made to offer customers ways of reducing their energy bills SO they make calls over and over again so that statistics will show that they have “”contacted”” their customers When in fact its just a recording IF you actually press the button to speak to them NOTHING happens

Corky says:
5 December 2014

Nuisance calls have been driving me mad, PPI, about your computer, hidden hearing, financial services, adjustable beds, the list goes on. I even get them in the middle of the night. The caller always gives themselves an English sounding name, John, Anne, etc, when it is obvious from their accent that this is not their real name. Sometimes they are automated and I am talking to a recording. I registered with TPS which reduced many calls but not all and more recently I paid £65 to Stop These Calls for three years cover. This seems to have worked. These calls are a form of stalking and those responsible need to face jail.

Have “stop these calls” told you which companies they have written to and told to stop ringing you?

In any one week my wife or I answer the phone to a cold caller or pre-programmed electronic call practically every day. Generally the caller after a rather confusing spiel, sometimes due to their origin, suggests that he/she can save us money on heating, utility bills, solar panels, etc. and is quick to say it won’t cost us anything (??). Although we can track anyone leaving a phone number, unknown number callers and the electronic calls do cause us some concern. As my wife does not like to use or answer the phone it can be distressing. We are senior citizens and while younger people may be able to deal with cold calls as just an irritation, it can be very worrying. Is the call made to see if nobody is at home for instance? Such calls have no regard for age, infirmity or mental condition whatsoever, so these companies must be stopped and brought to account by new legislation.

I am getting loads of calls from companies who are trying to convince me that my pc has been hacked claiming they are from Microsoft security. I contacted Microsoft and they said they never contact people in this way. I am going to hang up on everyone I do not know from now on. I have registered with TPS but as a previous person said that only stops UK phone calls. I am a pensioner and I get really cross with all these calls and feel that I too am being stalked.

Ros Chester says:
5 December 2014

I have received calls regularly for over a year. They cover all topics – PPIs, double glazing, energy saving, consumer surveys etc etc. The same companies call repeatedly. It can be several in one day. The worst day was five calls. Infuriating.

Janet says:
5 December 2014

I got so fed up with these calls that I now leave my answering machine on & screen all calls. If I don’t recognise the number I don’t answer.

In the last week I’ve had 3 calls per day from an energy company wishing to know if I want solar panels on my roof. I am not a home owner but I am getting tired of automated calls. I have had this for the last two months. Companies should be fined, it is happening to my elderly parents too its such a pain having to put up with this.

I have the Caller Display facility on my telephone with TalkTalk. There are certain problems with nuisance calls;- Overseas calls show up as ‘0’, number witheld as ‘P’ , with other UK based calls being displayed whether from mobiles or land lines.
These Annoyance Calls sometimes are aware of this and they seem to have mastered a technique whereby they call from abroad and show up as a UK based call with a number. Can you beat that. Well I try on TalTalk to do this because they allow you to block the last number to ring with a maximum of 10 numbers, after 10 the oldest number on the list will be replaced by the new number.

After a quiet week Monday started with Nat West this time. Yes it does cause distress. My husband is 73 and blind and has a dangerous heart problem. Racing to the phone if I am out could kill him by tripping and falling or by shock caused by both the call and by the anxiety of being unjustly called on a PRIVATE line. Unfortunately my husband cannot see the number calling unlike the commentator above.

4caster says:
5 December 2014

1. Cold callers who ignore TPS registration should be fined. They are intruding into our homes.
2. Silent callers should be fined more. The harassment is akin to ringing the doorbell and running away.
3. Anonymous calling should be made impossible. It should always be possible to identify a caller.
We had to change our number and go ex-directory because we were getting several unwanted calls a day. We went to the trouble of informing everyone who needed to know our new number, but lost touch with some people who lost the information before noting it.
The alternative of installing a filter to reject anonymous calls is unattractive because it will inevitably stop a few calls that we need: most seriously those from our doctor’s surgery, and some mobile and overseas calls from family.

Totally agree with your suggestions. If GCHQ can do all that detailed electronic surveillance secretly – it must be possible to do as you suggest.

I too am very pleased that the Government is considering tighter legislation aimed at penalising nuisance callers. In recent decades non “businesses” have grown up that exist merely to exploit the compensation and other scams and spurious sales calls. But more importantly they are literally terrorising the elderly and other more vulnerable people in their own homes. My wife and I have both had periods of Hospital treatment this year. So struggling to the telephone to answer a call only to find it is a silent computer generated call testing our number – or some foreign sales caller trying to con us (or someone else) out of money is not just irritating it is infuriating. It is also highly frustrating and distressing because we cannot stop their nuisance calls. Furthermore – the onus is on us to do something. These sham businesses have all the rights to attack us and even ignore our membership of the Telephone Preference Scheme, whereby our number is listed NOT to receive cold calls. Why cannot we have a code that when a nuisance call comes in – we can dial a short code (say “666”) and the caller’s identity will be logged? Some kind of electronic logging of unwanted calls would aid the Police & Government to deal more effectively with those offenders. It should also be a severely punishable offence to willy nilly cold call people in their homes WITHOUT their prior agreement to receive such calls. It should NOT be up to the resident to opt out that should be automatic – they should be required to opt in!

Does anyone know why this conversation thread has exploded into life recently?

My inbox is filling up faster than I can read!

Great news for Which? – more feedback than you can poke a stick at.

Are we on Twitter or Facebook or something?


My guess is Patrick is checking the spam comments plugin & has been approving all the correct comments. Might be wrong, but this is my guess as most of the comments are being posted within 2-3mins of each other, and 2-3 mins is the correct amount of time for Patrick to read a comment, then approve it.

But like i say, Might be wrong, but that’s what my guess is :p

Which? asked people to vote for what should happen to nuisance calling companies and it generated rather a lot of comments.

Option 1
The law should stay the same – firms are only fined if nuisance calls are proven to have caused ‘substantial damage and distress’

Option 2
The law should be tightened – firms should be fined for making repeated, unwanted nuisance calls

I think Which? should send this email again and add:

I will apologise for the shouting again as the powers that be are not listening.

You have to ask, is the government interested in making money from fines or do they genuinely want to do something positive for all the people whose lives are made a misery from cold calling.

Yes – I agree with you. Deliberate intimidation, repeated nuisance, harassment and threatening behaviour are all against existing laws. So why are these callers allowed to act in anonymity so that they cannot be identified and brought to justice? the Government & Parliament must act urgently to make sure that only those who OPT IN to received calls are contacted; that the callers number MUST identify a caller’s business and that only those registered and signed up to a policed scheme can call residents who have agreed to receive sales calls. We must not let this issue rest or let politicians fob us off with little or no real action!

Hey bib1 and Lee – we sent an email to a small group of our nuisance call campaign supporters to help us respond to a Government consultation on making it easier to fine cold call companies. After the vote, a link was included to this page. This is because we’ll be including a link to this Convo in our consultation response so that the regulators and the Government can read your comments.

Alfa, sorry if you didn’t see my reply on a previous page, but I thought it was worth pointing this out. The poll question is specifically about making the law easier for ICO to fine cold calling companies so that we can include it in our consultation response. There are lots of other measures that need to be taken, and we’ll be stepping up activity on Monday.

On our recent phone bill was listed 62 calls beginning 08… which of course we know we did not make. The only thing we thought could have caused this was that maybe we were getting charged for the answerphone answering the calls even though some of the cold calls hung up on hearing the first intake of breath of our answerphone message….. Is this possible? Anyway, we have switched off the answer machine and just let the phone ring and ring unless it is a normal looking landline number or mobile number. The problem is I need the answerphone for my business during the spring and summer months.

All companies that cold call should be made by law to display their phone number: It shouldn’t matter if they call from India or other foreign country’s if the number won’t show up on caller displays of be available by dialing 1471 then they should be barred at source.

Like it! Good idea.