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MPs, pick our Bill to tackle nuisance calls and texts

Jenny Driscoll and Mark McLaren from Which? at Parliament

We’re in parliament today lobbying MPs to pick a new Private Members’ Bill. Our candidate? A Bill to reduce nuisance calls and texts. Which MP will say ‘You’re hired!’?

The Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts team at Which? were at the House of Commons this morning as the ballot for the Private Members’ Bill took place.

The Private Members’ Bill, for those who may not be aware, is an opportunity for an MP to present a Bill of their choice to Parliament that could change the law.

This morning, deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle MP, drew 20 names out of a ballot box. Usually, up to 400 MPs enter the ballot and over the last couple of years, against odds of an estimated 58,000 to 1, MP John McDonnell came top of the annual ballot two years in a row. So, was it three years lucky for Mr McDonnell? No, this year it was James Wharton who won top place. Other winners in the ballot included Paul Blomfield, Mike Crockart and Justin Tomlinson.

Now these 20 MPs will consider what Bill they’ll each put forward for an opportunity to be debated later this year. There’s already been media speculation that one of the MPs will be persuaded to put forward a Bill to require a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Some MPs may have a personal issue they want to champion, while others will be looking around for an issue to take up. And that’s where Which? comes in.

Dear MPs, Which? has just the candidate for you!

Our Bill would help sort out a problem that affects 70% of every MPs’ constituents. Our Bill is an opportunity to improve complex rules and regulation to protect consumers. It would target an issue that’s generated over 30,000 votes in a poll here on Which? Conversation, with 100% saying they’re fed up. Our candidate? A Bill to reduce nuisance calls and texts.

As it happens Which? is not an apprentice when it comes to Private Member’s Bills. We actually have had a good track record. Previous candidates have achieved results, including simpler and clearer unit pricing in supermarkets and a change in rules so that parents can finally move children’s savings from poor performing Child Trust Funds into Isas.

So today, the Calling Time team at Which? have contacted every MP who won a place in the ballot with our big idea. We hope to persuade one of them to choose our Bill. We know many people will back an MP who’s willing to tackle nuisance calls and texts.

Though the ‘interview process’ takes almost a month – the chosen MPs have until Wednesday 19 June to decide what Bill they want to pursue – we’ll be waiting for an MP to point the finger at us and say ‘You’re hired!’

Kim Broadley says:
16 May 2013

Hat about nuisance emails that we dint sign up for?

Just a reminder that market research calls are just as much a nuisance as others, even though they are legal.

We ask MPs to represent our views on matters on which they may have no personal experience. This is an exception, and every MP in the country is likely to have suffered from nuisance calls.

jondhm says:
17 May 2013

Thoroughly support this initiative of Which?

BT are now promoting a phone (BT6500) which is meant to be able to screen calls and send unwanted ones straight to answerphone. You can select categories: Number Withheld, Anonymous (no caller ID), International, Payphone.
Which? says it will be reviewing this – any idea when we will see if it delivers, and also how it stacks up against other phones?

Nice idea – so BT CAN stop nuisance calls but choose to make money by selling a phone to do it Why should I spend £50 to get BT to comply with their own user supply charter protecting customers from nuisance calls.?
We are TPS registered but this has no effect and my experience of them is that they are as useful as a chocolate teapot – as if Ofcom.
Why do they not obey their original charter and block all such calls at source?
For those on BT as supplier ( or other suppliers using BT lines) should be given the option to opt in to such a block.

We get up to 12 nuisance calls per day and have had to resort to using the anserphone as a filter – genuine callers will be called back – albeit this is at OUR cost

I’ve been using the BT6500 for a month or so now. It works pretty well, cutting down the telepests very considerably. You do need to subscribe to BT caller ID, of course. I have the BT6500 set to block international and “unavailable” calls. We do not block withheld numbers because sometimes they are legitimate e.g. from the doctor’s surgery. Neither do we block payphone calls because they are rare for us. (I suppose that would be handy to combat a stalker.)
Also there is provision for up to ten specific numbers which will be blocked. My current list contains three marketing numbers, entered after answering such a call, and it has blocked one of them in a repeat call.
The calls list holds the last 50 calls in, so the success of the blocking system can be tracked.
The phone has various other features which work pretty well and a very clear user guide can be downloaded.
For cold calls which get through (a withheld or an actual number not on the blocked list) I have found it works wonders to ask if the caller is familiar with the Telephone Preference Service, if necessary saying that I am registered with TPS, that their call is illegal and that the Information Commissioner is starting to fine such callers. This so far has always produced a hurried apology and the offer to remove my number from their system.
None of this removes the need for strong government action but until then it does ease the great nuisance of these callers.

How much extra do you have to pay per month ( plus the £50 equipment charge) to get what is your right as a BT user?

@ Dr Cox
I believe charges for BT caller ID vary according to one’s package. My current package of Unlimited Anytime Plan at about £21 a month gives free caller ID and we’ve had it as a good feature for some years (and the Plan gives mostly free calls at any time.)
The BT6500 I reported on above costs £45, or £35 from you-know-where, currently.
I agree it would be ideal if BT offered free to all but I don’t see how it could be done technically without the relevant bit of home kit for the user to block (and unblock) selectively. Whilst waiting for this to be solved, the BT6500 seems to me to give an effective and quite reasonable facility.
PS I don’t have shares in BT!

Ambrose says:
17 May 2013

This is a real problem. We have had an epidemic of unwanted calls which culminated recently in a ‘stalker’ phoning 25 times from an international call centre.
We have installed Truecall and are overjoyed to have had not one single unwanted call since. Truecall also enables us to retrieve messages when away from home. It may not be cheap but in our experience Truecall really does work.
Hopefully the new BT phone will do the same thing. Once this becomes standard on most phone lines these call centres will become redundant.

An answering machine works a treat at getting rid of nuisance calls to the home landline. I never answer the landline until I can hear the person leaving a message on the answering machine. Everyone who rings my landline knows this. The other advantage is when you’re busy and can’t answer the phone straight away, you can go through the messages on the answering machine when you’re not busy and delete the junk messages. By doing this, I never have to answer the phone to a junk call. 🙂

As for spam texts, I don’t get them (yet!?). I see my mobile phone has a spam filtering system, if I need to use it.

David, you are on the button.

Until legislation ends nuisance calls, caller display and an answer phone will rid you of such calls. If you recognise the name or number, answer the call, if not let it go to answer phone. You can even monitor the messages as they are being left and pick up calls you wish to take. Your friends if using a private or withheld number will soon start their message with “Dotty, if you’re there, pick up”.


Victor says:
17 May 2013

i) Tell the nuisance caller that the person they want has moved away and ask for the name and number to be removed from their list.
ii) Ask the nuisance caller to wait as the person is down the garden, then put the phone down and carry on doing whatever you were doing
iii) After ii) leave the phone connected until you want it again as it may tie up one of the caller’s lines

More or less all my nuisance calls are from abroad or are recorded messages which the TPS can not control.

17 May 2013

I do not see reason to buy special bt phone. I think a phone with a lot numbers in barred will help.
The organisation who is supposed to deal with the call is useless. When you lobby for the bill please do not forget about the mobile. I started to get those calls and text messages on mobile as well..

Altough registered with TPS I am plagued at the moment by unwanted calls from a UK based solicitors (but of unrevealed name)wanting to discuss “….my recent car accident….”. Since I have not had any accident and my insurer assuring me that no claim has been made against me, my reply until recently has been that I cannot help them,to which they respond by further claiming to have obtained my details from DVLT and continuing to press me to reply. With BT unable to help and a Government Department apparently happy to release my registration number and telephone contact details I now feel quite angry at the lack of action to supress this nuisance.
My current response is to put the phone down as soon as the nature of the call is obvious.

Mr B says:
18 May 2013

I find that an answering machine isn’t the cure-all for this issue since many ppl and organisations are reluctant to leave messages (NHS for example).

I do find that a great number of nuisance calls have odd tel. numbers (0, 00000, 343434 etc.) so something that would automatically forward all visible but not-known-to-me Caller ID numbers to voicemail or answering machine would help a lot.

Barring blanket international numbers is no good as I do have some valid international calls so allowing some form of whitelist (known good numbers) would be useful as well.

Ofcom regularly fail to use the powers they already have.

Current Ofcom policy is to regulate nuisance (by allowing each victim to suffer one nuisance call per per day per caller), not eliminate the nuisance. As such, Ofcom policy is out of step of the “will of parliament”.


Harry says:
18 May 2013

These cold calls must be making money for someone. If everyone left the phone off the hook until a recorded message has cleared they would stop. With “How are you…” calls, try demanding to talk to the supervisor. When asked why, say that as they will sell any information on they must pay and you need to know to whom you should send the invoice. Not very effective, but can be rather fun!

john armstrong says:
19 May 2013

I make a point of politely answering ALL such calls- I waste their time with rambling, irrelevant and pointless questions and then spring on them that:’I’m afraid you’ll have to be a bit patient because I have Tourette’s syndrome’- cue a series of stuttering obscenities, punctuated by grovelling apologies..’Just a moment I’ll get my wife, because she’s absolutely enthusiastic about buying whatever it is you’re selling..ah, here she is, to talk to you..’ Cue the football-match horn- at full volume, into the mouthpiece. I now receive about one call a month. Much easier than using these useless regulations, which in my experience never seem to work.

They probably call you back for the entertainment you provide and pass on your details to others so they too are entertained..

john armstrong says:
19 May 2013

I should add that a similar system, mutatis mutandis, works well- and is a whole lot of fun, if a little time-consuming- with ‘419’ e mail scams.Scam the scammer by pretending that you’re duped, and draw them into a nightmare world of your own making: e.g. ‘I’ll only believe this is for real if you post a photograph of yourself on the net wearing a pointed hat with a “D” on it’. because these people are greedy and dishonest, you will find that they are usually just as big a fool as those they’re trying to fool. I recommend the American website http://www.419eater.com for some hilarious tales of scammers having the tables turned onto themselves. Direct action rules!

Glenn says:
20 May 2013

When I’m not busy & I receive a nuisance call, I keep them on the line as long as possible, in order to waste their time & stop them calling someone else.

wev says:
25 May 2013

Jenny Driscoll, will Which be asking MPs to do something about personal information collected on the internet by companies and sold to other companies and traders? Even your email address, internet address, personal interests and shopping preferences can be collected and passed on to others. It’s all part of the same marketing industry cold calling comes from.

Read this




wev says:
2 June 2013

Hello Which? Are you going to ask MPs about this along with nuisance calls?

wev says:
2 June 2013

and market research calls as well

I just had a call on my BT Mobile phone from ‘Canadian Online Pharmacy’: 0203 3551516. When I asked them to remove my mobile number from their list, they categorically refused and even said that they were going to keep calling (which they did a couple of times after). I obviously didn’t answer, luckily I can see their number on my phone, but I did call BT whose only helpful reaction was to register my mobile with the TPS service (apparently it wasn’t already registered). So I hope this will do the trick – if not I may well resort to one of the suggestions above.