/ 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.


I recently donated by text to a Syrian appeal from UNICEF never again. I have constantly been called from 020 3837 8445 which I understand from this site http://www.badnumbers.co.uk/020-3837-8445/ is working on behalf of UNICEF to encourage more donors. They are an absolute pest as are many other charities including the Red Cross. Never again will I donate in this fashion. If we cant get the UN to play straight who on earth will. I can’t believe they are so thick that they turn donors away from their cause. The whole thing is out of control. Why is it the government only seem to take action when the car is about to fall over the cliff. Our politicians are not fit for purpose to deal with big businesses any longer.

Same with me, I txted to donate to channel 4’s stand up to cancer 2 years ago and they still call me. I have never txted donated since, it’s put me right off.

It’s refreshing to see that something is about to be done on this long standing issue which politicians have turned a blind eye to for far too long.
Having read the comments, it’s all well and good proposing fines for these rogue companies… BUT it’s not always that easy to see who is actually calling you as lots enter bogus caller ID info or with hold their ID all together !
It would make much more sense if it were make ILLEGAL for them to with hold their identities and force them to use correct caller ID info. Additionally, it would also help to make it LEGAL HERE IN THE UK to make backwards searching possible on 0845, 0870 and similar ‘convenience’ numbers so that it would be a simple matter to find the true identity of these calling companies. Again, this needs to be backed by penalty for entering false information on registration of these numbers.
However, as with all things in the U.K., the archaic and ponderous legal system will resist dragging itself into the 21st Century and will continue to favour property and business interests over the needs of the individual on whom these vultures prey !!!

….and guess why something is now beginning to happen? Oh of course…. There’s an election coming up and they want our votes…. Let’s make sure they really do tackle this problem once and for all.

Gazza – I like your method – will definitely try it! Thank you.

Colin says:
8 December 2014

I pay extra for call recognition and therefore do not answer any of the unwanted calls.

If call recognition was free and its advantages publicised, then no-one would answer these nuisance calls – they would soon cease.

Cheaper than paying an army of bureaucrats at Ofcom who do not deal with present abuses of Call Preference Service.

Jill Naylor says:
9 December 2014

We must get at least one cold call per day evan though our number is ex directory and we are registered with TPS. Some of them say it is random dialling which should also be made illegal. There is often a couple of seconds silence before the person speaks which tells me the call is coming in from abroad, at which point, I hang up. Some calls are automated messages which are even more annoying. One guy I did speak to on one occasion even argued with me that, as he claimed he was not trying to sell me anything, it was not a cold call!! I don’t see why I should pay my telephone provider for a call barring facility on my phone – perhaps it would be better to target the telecoms companies to provide this service free.

Christine Needham says:
9 December 2014

I get about 50 of these calls a week so I started blocking them but they then use a different number instead. Now that I have a Lifeline fitted, blocking is useless as it comes through the the Lifeline as well nowadays. I am sick and tired of it.

If a caller can’t display their number I will block automatically, just a shame that includes my own bank. I appreciate their is a risk in this but as I get at least 1 pestering call a day whilst working abroad I can’t afford to do otherwise. Come on banks there must be a better way to contact customers urgently when you wish to discuss potential fraud!

Since having an accident, caused by a 3rd party, I have been plagued by companies calling me to try and get me to pursue a claim for damages against the 3rd party. I point out that I am registered with the TPS but this is just ignored, with excuses like:

– It does,nt apply to us
– Your (or the 3rd party) insurance company gave us your details (not true, or not legally if true)
– You opted into this by mentioning the claim in an insurance application (not true)
– We are legally obliged to call you (oh yeah?)
– We can’t accept a verbal request to remove your details

They simply ignore all requests to stop calling. Many of the companies do not seem to exist (at least no web site) and refuse to give contact addresses (one even told me “because of the data protection act I can’t tell you our registered address”).

In all cases I report the number to the information commissioner – so they should be traceable.

I think that spoofing (using false caller-id) or calling under the name of a fictitious company should be treated as fraud, & therefore a criminal offense. Refusal to stop calling should be a “one strike and you are out”, ie a second call after a request to stop should result in a heavy fine.

The telephone companies should be obliged to provide the ICO with the real source of calls and should be held responsible for allowing number spoofing.

This is the plague of modern life, TPS is completely useless as is – something needs doing urgently

I totally agree with all your comments, but ask the question “Why stop there? Some low-life companies Email in the same way (Don’t ask from where they obtain Email Addresses.) I am currently receiving an Email every day 7 days every week, that doesn’t even bear MY Email address. There’s obviously no ‘Unsubscribe’ option; they don’t have words like ‘no’ in their thesaurus. There’s no body with teeth to so much as deter those who make a living invading the privacy of others. I’m waiting, like most of the nation to be advised re the “Which?” campaign.

Alan Bernstone says:
10 December 2014

If I get calls I see if they leave any message on the answering machine if not I don’t reply to it my anwering machine is on 24/7 if the caller is someone I want to talk to I answer it thats how I deal with calls I don’t want to deal with

Today, 12th December 2014 ar 10:41 am I received a cold call from a ‘consumer survey’ company.It was way and by far the worst one of the 1000 I have received over the last 2 years. The mandatory 4 seconds silence was followed by an Indian woman who gave my name and asked if I were that person. I stopped her and proceeded into my dialogue about cold nuisance calls, TPS registration, heavy fines, director responsibility etc. Whilst I was advising her of her rights she talked over me repeating ‘Are you a stupid man’ over and over again. Eventually I gave up on her and hung up. I dialled 1471 (last caller) expecting to get a ‘number withheld’ but instead got a pre-recorded message saying that they way ‘Consumer Fair’ researching Life Cycle Brands to assist International companies with data that they (the research company were attempting to obtain. The woman was just rude and was not prepared to listen to anything that i had to say. The telephone number 0161 768 0150. Is there anyone there either from Which, the Cabinet Office or the TPS or even from government who can add this number to their list for investigation and for potential fine/prosecution?

Anthony Kaye says:
12 December 2014

Googling this number reveals you’re not the only one who’s fed up with this number!
It really is time the Govt. did its duty and cracked down on this sort of behaviour- it’s the electronic equivalent of breaking and entering.

The number has been spoofed and the caller is actually based overseas so investigation is going to be worthless until technology catches up with the scammers. They claim it’s a survey so that they can sell your details on. Tell them you charge £50 to complete their survey/research, it normally throws them off their script, and then ask for their debit card and bank details for payment of the £50.00. Most callers normally put the phone done at that point.

if they choose to make a living cold calling they must take their chances on retaliation. I keep a smoke alarm siren wired to battery and switch in a cupboard. when i get cold call i place phone beside it switch on and go away.

baldeagle says:
13 December 2014

The option 2 is not strong enough. Its no good just going after the company causing the these calls. The governing bodies of these of the organisations (ie chair of the board , ceo etc) must be sought out and punished .They who set the policy must be seen to carry the can ,its their responsibility.

In the real world I shall never expect a Conservative (led) government to bring to account anyone who has authority within these organisations. To be honest, I believe this view is shared by the greater majority of those who are affected on a daily occurrence by the said organisations. One simply does NOT kill the golden egg laying goose.

With respect to John’s post: Even geese have their day. Xmas day! Seasons greetings to all those who contribute to this discussion.

Gazza says:
15 December 2014

Oh for goodness’ sake stop whimpering that the Gov’t must do this, the Gov’t must do that…..go to yr MP’s constituency surgery and talk menacingly about the next General Election. If friends of yrs have been similarly afflicted by Cold Callers, get them too to eyeball yr MP at the surgeries.
As for poor Christine Needham, Dec 09th, who is “sick & tired of it”, I suggest for the third time that we return the compliment…..get one-up on the Cold Caller, thus: never be the first to speak if their number is with-held. This often upsets them so much that they end the call. We’ve Won! Hooray!!.
If they Do provide a number, be politely aggressive by always saying “No” to all of their suggestions, and waiting until they ask our opinion. Then, we cold-call them back within their call to us by asking if they’d consider a Seven-year covenant to any charity that we care to think of. This generally so upsets the caller that they end the call. Victory!!! again. Cold calls will slump to yr phone. Happiness will reign.

Nuisance calls are a national matter and I believe it is more efficient to have Which? working on our behalf. My view is that MPs time is better used on local issues.

Don’t forget that many of us have spent years tackling cold callers in our own ways.

I agree with all you say but I would like to know how you cold call them back? Every single call I get, I try and locate a number – be that asking them for it, doing 1471, googling the number that shows etc etc. Every single time I attempt to ring that number back. Just once have I got hold of a company and complained or taken it further.

Most of the time it’s number withheld, or international call number withheld, or some rogue number that gives out a strange message or sounds as number unobtainable.

So as much as you say to do this, it is completely impossible as far as I’m concerned.

Gazza says:
16 December 2014

Hiya! HH, So sorry that I wasn’t clear-enough in mine of 15 Dec. I don’t call them back, as that’s often impossible, as u say; and always expensive. What I sometimes manage to do, within the call that they’ve made to me, is to turn the tables on them as suggested above. This is possible because they’re trained to listen to us, to try to get us to do things their way. So, when they ask me a question, instead of answering, I say “Don’t u think that we should do more to help children/the old/cats/dogs/lifeboats/elephants….?”{whatever u best like}. They are at a disadvantage as they’re torn between still desiring to get me to do their thing, and the obvious danger of me enrolling them in a Seven-year Covenant to the charity of my choice. Together with the third horror: of being thought mean. They tend to put the ‘phone down; which is what I want.

Thank you! Didn’t read your post properly and thought you were calling them back! I don’t want to miss a trick so might try this!

Mike.W says:
2 January 2015

I use a call blocker it cost me £50 every time I got a call I didn’t want, I blocked it . Withheld is awkward because Doctors Dentists etc I am now down to less than one a month unwanted calls my concerns is the list is 200 blocks but I am up to 50 now, however almost silence of the phone is sheer bliss. best 50 quid I ever spent. I believe every call should be identified unless exceptional circumstances, all commercial and residential id should be compulsory What have they got to hide?

One way of overcoming the phone’s memory limit (eg 200 blocked entries) is to reverse the process.
Instead of adding ‘bad’ numbers to your blocked list – some phones allow you to create a ‘good’ list.

This has been discussed somewhere on this forum (or perhaps a BT forum?) but now I can’t find it.

My BT6500 is one such phone (but don’t use any of it’s blocking features – they make the phone go haywire).
The idea is to use the “Do Not Disturb” feature.
This stops your phone ringing unless the caller is flagged as a “VIP” in your address book.

So only ‘good’ numbers ring – all others are picked up by the built-in answerphone – if they can’t be bothered leaving a message then don’t bother worrying about who they may be!

The best bit is, you don’t have to bother adding ‘bad’ numbers to your blocked list – you assume all calls are ‘bad’ unless proved innocent!

It was also suggested that Doctors etc are best dealt with using a Pay As You Go cell-phone just for the surgery etc – but don’t use it for anything else or it will start getting cold-calls as well.

That won’t work for people like me who have, as part of their job, to take calls from withheld numbers on their landline and who, although not living in the back of beyond, can’t rely on a mobile as the reception is so poor. I’m caught between a rock and hard place…

Maureen says:
3 January 2015

I have commented here before but way back now.
I can tell you how stressed I and other family members get when
we too have these calls and no amount of telling them politely or
otherwise makes any difference and in fact like so many others have said
here it actually puts ‘us, their potential customers’ off of them altogether.

I am an elderly women whom would be known as a voluntary
unpaid carer to my disabled husband whom has diabetes and Parkinson’s
and a number of other ill health conditions
as well as a carer for my adult disabled son along with other family
members I provide care for, they all say as I do just how stressful it is
answering the phone time after time with these kind of calls and some
are coming from other countries where there is little or no respect given
to a listing we are on to supposedly protect us from such cold calling.

For people in our situation it can be difficult to answer the phone
and causes a great deal of distress to those persons with a disability
and for the carer.

It is about time that the government itself took fuller responsibility
for allowing this to continue in the way that it has, only demonstrates
how little this government cares for it’s people and only wants
business at any cost, regardless of the stress to thousands of people
which it does bring and can have a knock on affect.

With the technology and environmental services that is around today
this sort of ‘business behavior’ should not be a problem to stop
if only capable of embarrassing them out of business and the government
should reconsider their position on this big time or be left with a title of being no better
and antisocially in adequate.

We thank which.co.uk for keeping us all updated on this issue.

I hope and pray that

Unfortunately a lot of these calls use a computer program which generates random numbers and obviously some of them ring telephones. If all their “agents” are busy you get silence. There is also a pause sometimes while the computer connects a free agent. In both these instances I just hang up./

UK resident says:
18 January 2015

WHY cannot the government organise and advertise a single point of access on the internet, in the UK, for its residents to report these calls, perhaps through Ofcom but through somewhere….. There would be no confusion about where to go to report, and if the interface was designed well it would include drop down boxes so that it could be used for what it would be intended to do – receive information about unwanted callers numbers and the times they call. It wouldn’t need to record people’s reactions or feelings about the call, it could just do a very useful job in simply collecting the very information which is needed to eliminate the calls….. ??? Of course if any body was prosecuted as a result the website could add information about that too… just to further incentivise people to add further reports of legitimate time wasters.

Not a bad idea so long as there is a way of dealing with the ‘number withheld’ type of call [which probably are the biggest nuisance]. Plus the government needs to be active in doing something about the perpetrators [not much use just building up a list of numbers for statistical purposes]. Once detected, there must be a presumption that the originators of the nuisance calls have called of their own volition and without prior request or consent unless they can demonstrate otherwise and the sanction must be instant disconnection of their telecom service [one day for the first offence, two days for the next, and so on].