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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.

Joan Newton says:
6 December 2014

I regularly get cold calls, usually from someone with an Asian accent but a very English name. As a result, as soon as I hear the accent, I start getting angry. Sometimes I just leave them talking to themselves, others I put the phone down. I am sure some of these calls are legitimate but I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt.
The worst at the moment is all the companies calling me to tell me about the government’s latest scheme to give me “free” electricity. Despite me saying we are not interested, asking them to take me off their database or even becoming very angry, they still keep ringing back.
I registered with the TPS years ago and have reregistered several times since then, but it has no effect. If I want to buy something, I will approach the supplier so cold calls not only do not help sales, but actively alienate me as a potential customer.
I agree with Terminator that all companies should be obliged to show their number – currently they can get round this by using an extension which always comes up as “we do not have the caller’s number” – however I would prefer to go even further and ban cold calls altogether!

I agree cold calls should be banned. PPI claims are the worst culprit – PPI claims should have an end date. I also get cold calls when abroad on “roaming” – expensive. Also to tell me I have problems with my computer and also trying to persuade me top have solar panels – I live in a block of flat!! I have subscribed to TPS but most of our cold calls come on my mobile. My wife never gets any and virtually none on our landline. However, on the landline I always ask for proof of ID and their telephone number so I can ring them – they always hang up. Alternatively don’t hang up as BOTH caller and called have to hang up to cancel the call.

Ian Brockbank says:
6 December 2014

Despite having been registered with the Telephone Preference Service for well over a decade, we get several calls daily – often disturbing our meal.

Since my wife runs her business from home, we can’t afford to only answer calls from numbers we recognise, and sometimes they withhold their number anyway. But then, so do NHS staff (it would be far better if their number came up as a standard switchboard number so we can recognise them as NHS).

It is clear the current law has no bite whatsoever. I should have the right to a level of privacy in my own home, and the ability to choose when I talk to sales people and what about, not be at their beck and call when I’m relaxing.

It is too hard to report them as well (it’s not very hard, but it involves getting their details, going to the computer, finding the right web site from the Which? site and entering the details). Given I’ve already been disturbed from what I’m doing, I can’t be bothered exacerbating the disturbance, but maybe if there was a number we could dial straight away that would automatically report the previous call, that might make reporting easier?

The current laws have clearly failed to be effective, even after several tweaks over the last few years.

All of the current “action” is happening just six months before an election. Bold promises may be made as to what effect the changes will have.

The latest proposals are just minor tweaks to the current laws, no new approach, and will therefore continue to fail consumers and citizens.

It will be well into the next parliament before everyone realises that more of the same approach has resulted in more of the same results…

T. N. Thompson says:
6 December 2014

My wife and I are both disabled pensioners, as such we receive calls from doctors, hospitals and dentists, which, because of the 2 strikes and you are out, must be answered. Nuisance calls for marketing, heating or other unwanted services are bad enough, but it is the silent calls which are the most insidious. Either complete silence, or silence for about 8 to 15 seconds, then a ladies voice says “goodbye”. The other frightening one is, the phone rings, pick up the handset and there is silence, you replace the handset to dial 1471 and when you lift the handset again, a ladies voice says, “your call cannot be taken at the moment”. These make me seeth with anger, as there is no way that we can retaliate.

Having followed this thread right from the start, I have to say I am absolutely appalled at what everyone is going through with this (myself included).

There are tough laws on for instance, charity collectors, there are laws to stop people harrassing you online (Harrassment Act 1997) yet these people can harrass us in our own homes by hiding behind false numbers or withholding their number. If someone was continually ringing my doorbell, the law would be on my side. Yet, millions of people in this country are having their privacy invaded, they are being abused (yes I have been subjected by the most vile language by a caller with no redress as withheld number), they are being caused distress and yet all we hear about are fines. Fines are not working.

I would like more comment from Which? This is their website. Can they not forward this thread to someone that matters? Because on here are real stories from real people illustrating how upset everyone is about this.

Hi HH, thanks for your comment and to everyone else for theirs. The stories shared here were the catalyst for us to step up action on sorting nuisance calls. We called on the regulators and the Government to act. We saw a range of company fines that followed from the ICO, however, they were limited by the rules allowing companies to dodge the fines that they deserved for breaking cold call laws. So we called on the Government to change the law and this is what this consultation refers to – make it easier for ICO to fine cold calling companies.

That’s just one aspect. With your support and the stories shared right here we also convinced the Government to launch a Nuisance Calls Action Plan, with a range of measures promised to tackle nuisance calls. One of which was setting up a task force to see how people give consent to marketing, how your consent is sold on to third parties – the root of most nuisance calls. This task force reports back on Monday with a range of recommendations, which we’ll present to the Government. We’ve also invited the Government to write a post for Which? Conversation about what they’re doing to tackle the matter and we’ll need your comments on it to keep up the pressure. Thanks again for your support.

Oh and we’ll be including a link to these comments in our consultation response.

Thank you for this and it’s good to read that there is a plan by Which? I certainly will be commenting on any thread to do with this (especially if the Govt. comment!) Some of the posts on here have absolutely shocked me – my life is disrupted by calls, I miss my sleep after a night duty but other people are suffering more than me because they have to cope with with disability and some are actually frightened by some of the tactics used..

I think feelings run high because the volume of calls has increased greatly – it has in my case. I am inundated some days and it was never like that years ago. I joined TPS in 1999 and at that point it seemed to work, but not now.

Anyway Patrick, thank you for your response.

there is no deterrent to these companies. numbers which ring regularly can be ignored, but many withhold their number, as does the NHS, so if you are receiving treatment you are compelled to answer all calls.
I find it laughable to read about the large fines available as punishment.
I am 100% confident that no such fine has been incurred and I am just as confident that should one of these companies receive such a fine then they would go into immediate liquidation hence no fine being paid. they would then reopen under another identity in the same premises, using the same phones and staff and continue with their business of harassment.
as far as the government are concerned the only nuisances in these situations are the consumers, as if we make enough complaints they may, and that’s a big may, break off from their burping and slurping on expenses and instigate measures to deter these people, like leaving the callers open to arrest if they can be identified.
08437240459 phones me on a regular basis.
I don’t answer 0843 numbers or indeed other numbers that I don’t recognise. I then google ” whocalledme ” and search the number and add a comment where appropriate.
good look to Which in their campaign.

Bruce Harper says:
6 December 2014

I have just had such a cold call,reference the government’s eco strategy for your home etc.This only highlights the current problem we all face. I agree with all the previous comments from others and consider these calls as an invasion of privacy. I have been a member of the various call screening services for at least 14 years,but to no real avail.The most important question for me,is,how am I receiving these calls on my mobile? only my family and close friends have my number! My provider assures me they are not responsible,well I am afraid that I have been around too long to take that as stated.As for previous comments,the NHS etc should have an identifying number that allows you to respond.We are,in the terms of current laws,victims and this must cease or politicians are going to find themselves out of the gravey train.

You may have been given a recycled phone number for your mobile. The previous user may have given out that number in the past, or in my case continued to use their old number online even after they had changed phones. Or it may have been dialled at random or somebody else had entered what they thought was a fictitious number on a webpage.

Cold callers don’t care how they get your number, because they will simply make up stories about how they came to obtain your number anyway even if you ask them.

Five years ago I used to at least give these cold-callers the time of day.
Not any more! To help ensure they can’t ‘sell me on’ I simply say ‘!$£^ off!’ and don’t wait for a reply.
And I’m giving myself a referee’s whistle for Xmas…….I shall simply say “take your headphones off” and give them a blast!

Hmm. Know how you feel – but would warn against using profane or racist or homophobic language on the phone – and attempting to cause distress to the caller by sending a high pitched signal or whistle down the phone. That could hand the advantage in a damage claim to the caller! Also, please if you leave the phone off the hook – only do so briefly or you could gum up the local phone service. We had a loose fitting handset a short while ago that got knocked and blocked the line. We were out and therefore never heard the BT signal warning down the line. But shortly after we got in an engineer came to the door and asked us to check that all our handsets were replaced. We did – found the problem and apologised.

Disagree with you here mick.
If somebody cold calls me-or anyone else- they do so at their own peril. Many of them are complicit in criminal activity. Would they dare to sue if I swore at them?
As for the whistle, if I tell them to take their headphones off and then give them a gradually increasing blast, the only message I’m sending is ‘don’t bother me again’.
I have no wish whatsoever to damage anybody’s hearing- no matter how complicit they may be.

I get nuisance calls, all day long even after 9pm. I think that these companies should be stopped and the authorities ought to fine them, BUT, I know they wont because of vested interest, i.e. profit.

Jeremy says:
6 December 2014

I think a private individual’s right not to be bothered with unsolicited calls weighs more highly than a commercial operation’s right to bother that individual with such calls.
Thus the current default, where the individual is forced to attempt to opt, out is fundamentally wrong. Instead an individual should receive no such calls unless (s)he has opted in to receive them.

I am so sick of cold calling, which in my opinion should be banned, that I’ve resorted to removing the handset completely for well over a week. This obviously means none of my friends and family can now ring my landline – yet, I am still paying for it! BAN cold calling completely. They can send mail out or advertise on TV but they should NEVER be allowed to ring telephone numbers that are supposed to be ex-directory! Angry – you bet I am!

joyce cowie says:
6 December 2014

I often suffer periods of sickness and need to rest/sleep. But am constantly disturbed by these cold calls. I have elderly relatives as well as family abroad so need to answer the ‘phone. I constantly ask to be removed from calling lists to no avail. The same company calling 6 to 7 times in the same day. Even when told that l am not interested/am ill etc, they continue to ring. And even though I am always polite they have used extremely abusive/foul language on occasion. Leaving me extremely upset and anxious and with absolutely no redress. So l say BAN ALL COLD CALLING NOW!

This is awful to hear Joyce. Agree with BAN NOW.

I agree with you Joyce and understand the frustration you and all the other people must be feeling as I am experiencing the same problems every. I hope the Which campaign gets something done to stop these unsolicited calls.

Gazza says:
8 December 2014

Dear Ms Cowie, Perhaps the continuation of yr problem is because u ARE polite. As I detailed in my lengthy contribution to this debate on Nov 30th, since I’ve switched my behaviour to taking command of the ‘phone-call, their number has dropped to fewer than 1 per day….as follows:
If the caller does not provide their number, I am never the first to speak. This often unnerves the caller such that they end the call.
If they DO provide their number, at the first chance I cold-call them by asking them to give to a charity of my choice. As u could. This so seriously upsets them that they sometimes lose their rag, so I wonder aloud if this call is being taped. And then put down the phone, with them knowing that I’m very hard work indeed; so they seem to be leaving me alone.
Since u say that u get the same company several times, this is Harassment under the Protection from H’ment 1997, so u again get to be in charge. All the Best.

I am a Doctor and I have 3 tactics.
1′) emergency Dr.what is the nature of your emergency please?this immediately puts the cold caller on the back foot and gets a robust ‘under no circumstances are you to use this number again. This is a formal demand under the Data Protection Act.
2) as I have a swiss(French) background I have a limited knowledge of Swiss german – schwitzerditch. A Gruetzi and a volley of thick Swiss german (unlikely the caller will have any knowledge of this as even Germans find this well nigh impossible) results in an abrupt end to the call. Any friend of mine knows this and will tell Chris not to be a fool!
3) please bear with me as I need to switch off the cooker. The caller is then left on an open line whilst I go and do something else.
As well as being registered with the telephone preference society, being ex directory and always ticking no publicity and giving my old dial up Internet phone number (discontinued some 10 years ago I have cut such calls to 1 a month.

Well – its’s happened yet again – 9am on Sunday morning, the only day we can get a lie-in…… They obviously get a real kick out of doing this……..

I agree with the comments and I have been registered with the TPS for over a decade this is the most ineffective organisation on planet earth .As a night shift worker with a disabled wife getting disturbed will never result in me signing up for any of the services. the technology does exist to block these calls and should be provided free by the phone companies any company providing this free service would hold a significant commercial advantage over its competitors and would result in all companies adopting the practice of blocking unwanted calls.

Eduard Marsheftaj says:
7 December 2014

I agree with all the comments i wish i know what steps to take to stop this annoying calls
I get 20 to 30 call a week about car accident i never been involved in one , about PPI , sales which thy are a rip off I’m sick of it

Sarah says:
7 December 2014

I have been frequently called from what sound like large call centres by people who tell me I should make a claim for an accident I had in the last two years, or for money that is owed to, or for compensation – when I have not had an accident, am not owed money and cannot expect any compensation I know of. I think this could be extremely confusing for some people and get them into difficulties with whoever is behind this unwarranted activity.

Eric G says:
7 December 2014

I have a new cordless phone which allows me to bar “number withheld” calls, which I have now set up. Why on earth does the NHS withhold their numbers. Can anyone explain please?

Another member of your household may not wish to reveal to the rest of the occupants that they have been called by the NHS, perhaps with news of test results.

Incoming calls from the NHS leave no trace and their staff won’t identify themselves until they are sure they are speaking to the intended call recipient, and that it is safe to do so.

This also applies to calls from the police and from a number of personal support agencies.

Eric G says:
8 December 2014

Ian, then the call barring of number withheld is a waste of time since so many legitimate organisations hide their numbers? I think I will take a chance and leave my call barring option functional, my wife and I have no medical or legal issues we wish to hide from each other

The problem of the NHS withholding numbers must be specific to particular trusts. All of the calls that I receive from my doctor, dentist and local hospital have identifiable numbers associated with them so that I can readily see who is calling.

Betty says:
7 December 2014

After writing to MP’s, TPS, and others, I get so angry, frustrated, and upset with the lack of Authority taking responsibility for this appalling state of affairs. Being disturbed at all hours by conmen and advertisers as well as so called salesmen has to stop. I have now purchased a BT8500 telephone and that has stopped 99.9% of all unwanted calls but why should I have them in the first place, and why do I have to pay?

If regulation ever comes into force that is effective at stemming unwanted calls from marketers and lead generators, the overall number of calls may fall. However, this will also mean that within the remaining calls, the percentage that are from con artists and criminals will go up.

7 December 2014

Our house is in a small Welsh village up to four years ago we ran a shop and post office
We closed it when my husband first became ill every day between 12-2pm we get telephone calls people trying to send fans silent calls sometimes we get calls at 8-9pm at night usually from a call centre abroad.when I said that must not call again as my husband is very ill with cancer they would still want me to answer their questions.disgusting!!

Hi all, today the Which?-led Nuisance Calls Task Force announced its recommendations, including holding senior executives to account if companies break cold call laws. You can read more about the 15 recommendations here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/know-the-issue/

We’ve also invited Communications Minister Ed Vaizey to update you all on what the Government is doing about nuisance calls. You can talk to him here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/nuisance-calls-task-force-recommendations-ed-vaizey/