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Mike Crockart MP: we need a one-stop shop for nuisance calls

Landline phones hanging

In this guest post, Mike Crockart MP explains why he’s tired of nuisance phone calls, and why he thinks there needs to be a single point of contact for anyone who wants to see the back of them.

Quite frankly I’m fed up with nuisance calls to my landline and mobile, as well as unsolicited texts. We all know the kind… the text that starts ‘our records show’, or the recording telling us we’re entitled to thousands of pounds due to mis-sold PPI.

It’s an annoyance for me, but for many vulnerable and elderly people it’s also a menace. A menace that puts them at risk of fraud, just as much as if a crook or pushy salesman turned up at their door.

That’s why over the past five months I’ve been running a campaign to get the government to look again at nuisance calls, silent calls and spam texts.

What does the law say and who enforces it?

Ofcom has powers under the Communications Act 2003 to deal with the ‘persistent misuse’ of a communications network or service, which includes the generation of unsolicited and silent calls.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforces any breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which covers rules about unsolicited electronic marketing messages sent by telephone, fax, email or text. The ICO also enforces the Data Protection Act, but it doesn’t deal with silent calls as no marketing information has been shared.

Regulation 19 of the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations 2003 requires organisations making automated marketing telephone calls to have the prior consent of the person being called. This means that ‘live’ marketing calls cannot be made to anyone who has indicated an objection to receiving them, for example, by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

What’s the reality?

People have said to me time and time again that in spite of registering with the TPS they are still plagued by cold calls. So these ‘safeguards’ are actually doing very little to protect us. Yes, Ofcom has fined nine companies for making silent calls, but if the companies persist it must be because, in spite of the fines, it’s worth their while.

I can’t help but feel that the maze of regulations doesn’t help. While there are different regulators and different government departments in charge, there will always be loopholes for these companies to abuse.

How many of you have been sure you haven’t given permission to be called, but still receive calls without knowing how the company got your information? If you’ve tried to make a complaint have you been successful, or do you feel it won’t result in any action?

I think we need a single, simple point of contact for any individual wishing to protect their privacy from unwanted calls, texts, faxes and emails. What I want to know is whether you think that would help. Would you be willing to register to ‘opt-out’ of calling lists if that could guarantee your privacy? Do you think that having a one-stop shop for such issues would make it easier for people to make complaints the companies that consistently pester you?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Mike Crockart, MP for Edinburgh West. All opinions expressed here are Mike’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I have been registered with TPS for years and I am fed-up with overseas calls and calls from UK companies that don’t play by the rules. However, my greatest concern is now the number of ‘market research’ calls I receive. I don’t want these calls.

It is time that all unsolicited calls were made illegal. If anyone would like to opt-in to receiving marketing or market research calls, that’s fine.

Member
Mike Crockart says:
17 January 2013

The problem with opt-in is that it would kill the direct marketing industry stone dead. What I want is a register that actually means something so an opt-out is acted upon effectively and adhered to and anyone breaching that is then open to penalties.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Mike

I am absolutely sick of unsolicited calls and if you take the time to read the all the relevant correspondence on Which? Conversation you will see that I am not the only one. I have never bought a single product or service as a result of an unsolicited call. Furthermore, I make a point of not using companies that annoy me in this or other ways.

There may be people who are very grateful for information about selected products or services and might want to opt-in to receiving marketing calls. At the present time, I am not one of them.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

Mike

I have to say that I personally find your elitist approach on this point to be wholly unacceptable.

You are defending the failure to enforce the existing “opt-in” provisions, which exist in the laws that you choose not to mention, on the basis that enforcement of the law would have an unwelcome effect. You are obviously obsessed with the idea that citizens must exercise consumer choice in order to enjoy the protection of those who enforce the law, and we note that this fits in well with the Which? mission.

It would be good to know if you are arguing that the existing “opt in” or universal protections be removed, or simply that an effective superior level of protection be offered to a select group of citizens. In the former case, it would be probably be necessary to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership to enable us to opt out from the provisions of existing consumer protection directives.

Those who note the effect that the present level of TPS registration has had on the telemarketing industry may disagree with your suggestion that an “opt out” approach ensures its good health. Ask those businesses who were the victims of BT’s business protection scheme known as “BT Privacy at Home” if their attempts to compete with BT, as originally encouraged by Oftel, were not severely damaged. Their retaliation, by abusing the principles of the TPS and thereby further undermining it, provides a fair indication that they were hurt.

Obviously, one must never disregard the effect that nuisance calls has on individual victims, but it is the practices of the direct marketing industry, and others, which have to be addressed. I cannot agree that the law, in definition or in implementation, should be applied selectively, according to the identity of the victim.

Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

Agree!! Until there’s a body with teeth, it’s obvious that these callers are making money somewhere along the line. They need to be persuaded that this pracitce in unprofitable, then it will stop.

Member
Vynor Hill says:
17 January 2013

More haste…. sorry!

Member
Joe Deans says:
17 January 2013

Just voicing my support for any action taking against this problem. Although I also think that legislation may simply lead to the same “companies” resorting to spam e-mails on a more regular basis.

Profile photo of Mike Crockart
Member

Might be true Joe but at least that’s less obtrusive, especially to older and vulnerable people, and is easier to deal with by blocking adresses?

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

Joe

You are undoubtedly correct to assume that the proposal to replace the existing “opt-in” requirement for direct marketing emails with assumed consent and an “opt-out” is likely to lead to more being sent.

It would indeed be less obtrusuive on businessses selling valuable products and services to older and vulnerable people, as they would not have to canvass for enquiries by other means. Blocking the addresses of those in this group would indeed also be easier than for other groups, because they would be less likely to take the trouble and incur the expense of registering.

Profile photo of Mike Crockart
Member

The ‘market research’ con is one that I raised with ICO this week. Apparently the technical term for this is ‘sugging’ – selling under the guise of marketing – and it’s something that they’re already looking at how to crack down on.

Profile photo of william
Member

That’s easy increase the TPS opt out. When people opt out I suspect many don’t want to receive any “junk” calls. So just have say another level of opt out.
1 ) as is ( useless)
2 ) No sales / marketing calls or any other call that you’ve not asked for.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

I fear that many people are being conned about the nature of the present regulations.

The relevant regulation (PECR #21) refers to a “direct marketing purpose”. This is very widely interpreted, to include promotion of a political cause, as the LibDems are well aware! It does not only cover selling (whether disguised or not).

The important distinction is between genuine market and opinion research, which is impersonal and thereby outside the definition of DIRECT marketing, and attempting to establish if “you”, as a particular idenitifed person may be interested in a product, service or political party. The latter is unquestionably “direct marketing”.

It is unfortunate that the ICO has been slow to understand this important distinction. The only con which is relevant to this point is the pretence that the TPS does not cover all attented unsolicited calls with a direct marketing purpose. There are other similar cons being practised in this conversation.

I would have thought that the solution for those who never wish to particpate in a telephone conversation that they do not specifically want was very simple – do not answer the telephone!

Profile photo of william
Member

“we need a one-stop shop for nuisance calls” Only earlier this week I emailed Ofcom about there “laughable” 5 point action plan ( I didn’t tell them what I thought of the plan). I asked if they were taking suggestions from the public, the people who are affected by these calls or by the industry that carries them out. I even gave them a free of charge suggestion, which just happened to be “we need a one-stop shop for nuisance calls”. It shouldn’t be down to you or I to know that this type of call gets reported to A or another type of call gets reported to B. Ofcom, ICO and the TPS need 1 website to take in the details for ALL nuisance calls and to then forward to to whoever. They also need a phone system to allow people without internet access, you know the ones, the ones that still get calls about their non existent computer, to report nuisance calls. And several months ago I even raised this http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35828 although its not moving very fast 🙁

Profile photo of Mike Crockart
Member

Interesting petition – but may be a little too prescriptive. The point you raise in it about tracing those who mask their CLI is key and I discussed it this week with OFCOM. It’s not an easy one to fix given the growing number of calls made over VOIP but OFCOM are looking at this urgently. It’s number 2 on their ‘Action Plan’.

Profile photo of william
Member

prescriptive it may be, but do we not already have a similar mechanism for dealing with SPAM texts by forwarding them to {3|8}7726 .

And I wasn’t expecting government to do what I wrote but at the very least discuss it and hopefully ways forward.

And these regulatory bodies don’t seem to be catering for there target audience very well, e,g, someone with a phone. As I would be prepared to bet any wager you like that everyone who gets a nuisance call has a phone and not all of them have computers, even if some calls are about there none existent computer.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Mention was made above that an “opt-in” would kill the direct marketing industry stone dead. Clearly many do not want these unsolicited calls, so if that is the outcome it is no loss.
I would favour an opt-in requirement for these calls to be legal, supervised by a single body.

I often use suppliers who have check boxes asking if I can be contacted for marketing purposes by email. phone. mobile phone or post. These should legally be required to be checked to receive material this way, not to be checked if you DON’T want it.

None of this will presumably stop overseas calls (or those that appear as “international”).

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Sent before I’d added something!
These calls – like emails – can be very persuasive for vulnerable people – whether elderly or not confident nor experienced at dealing with sales people. I have seen the direct results of this with acquaintances who were taken in, or nearly so. Direct mail and emails are bad enough but at least give you (or carers/relatives) thinking time – phone calls do not and can result in a spur of the moment decision. They need to be controlled.

Profile photo of john-from-halifax
Member

I’d prefer an opt-in system but think an opt-out system is more realistic. Unfortunately I can’t see what the UK can do to stop companies from overseas carrying on as they currently do. Most of the calls of this type I receive are from India so I’m not sure what can be done, I hope I’ve missed something and we can end this menace.

Profile photo of paul goodwin
Member

I have been registered with TPS for years and am also ex directory and yet I get one or two calls per day, often with number withheld, other times with a well known phone number in Bishops Stortford – many complaints about it on the internet. These unwelcome intrusions are akin to trespass, they just come into my house uninvited.
It should not be beyond the wit of man to stop these calls especially from a well known number – after such a call, why can’t I just press a simple 4 digit ‘report it’ code on the phone and after perhaps a few reports, the phone number just gets disconnected?

Member
Lindsay says:
21 January 2013

Either a) a one stop shop where you can register for all calls/texts whether national or international, whether via a person, machine or ‘silent’ calls OR legislation to stop this menace needs to be undertaken and, more importantly enforced. If Offcome have to fine the companies – it should be on a sliding scale x for the first offence 2x for the 2nd offence then for the 3rd offence the govt has the power to stop the company trading. That should act as a deterrent.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

I am concerned and disturbed by many aspects of this proposal and the way in which it is presented.

I recognise that in the context of a Which? conversation I have to set aside my horror at the idea that a citizen’s privacy, fraud and the practice of causing nuisance are matters that may properly be addressed through consumer choice. I cannot however hold back from expressing my deep concern that a supporter of the government in parliament is actively seeking to promote an approach to these issues which is selective, according to consumer preferences.

We know that Which? is opposed to the ICO, Ofcom, and even the MoJ, holding more power than any individual. Although a guest contributor is not essentially required to share this view, it would be interesting to know if he does agree, and would perhaps seek to use signatures to his petition as implicit support for this radical political position.

Addressing the detail of the proposal and the supportive arguments, I believe that this conversation would benefit from answers to the following questions:

a) in relation to the proposed “privacy shop”:
– What general level of charge would there be?
– How would companies be persuaded to stop calling those who registered complaints?
– What would be the terms of the proposed “guarantee”?

b) in relation to the “summary of the law”:
– What part of Ofcom’s existing persistent misuse powers, or its formal policy on the use thereof, has anything to do with whether or not calls are solicited?
– Why is there no reference to the powers of the MoJ in licensing CMCs?
– Is the article being ironic and mischievous, or seeking to mislead, when stating that the ICO enforces breaches of the PECR? Its duty is, of course, to enforce compliance.
– Why have the provisions of PECR #19 and #21 been conflated?
– Why is there no reference to PECR #20 and #22?

c) on the fundamental issues:
– Is it proposed to remove all the existing protections which do not require the exercise of a consumer choice to “opt-out”? These presently cover Silent Calls and other cases of persistent misuse, recorded messages, faxes, emails and text messages.
– If registration is to be personal, as is implied, will any attempt be made to retain existing registrations with the TPS?
– As this is proposed to be a “single” point of contact, is it proposed that those who currently offer similar services be outlawed?

If these matters are to be addressed seriously, I believe that we need clear and comprehensive answers to these questions.

Member
Frank says:
24 January 2013

In response to the comments – if a crackdown kills the direct marketing industry so what? They have had long enough to adopt self regulation and it patently does not work. Like dinosaurs they will become extinct if they don’t change.
The other issue I have is why it takes the regulatory authorities so long to track and prosecute these people? Technology is there in abundance to track and stop these people when they have been reported – just check the Who Calls Me type of website and there are HUNDREDS of numbers listed as being PPI or insurance payout companies. If the law has enough teeth already then let it use them.
Good luck with any proposed changes – I suspect it won’t happen in my lifetime because of too many interests being involved.

Member
Bennybongo says:
24 January 2013

I heartily agree with all that has been said above and welcome perhaps some political influence from Mike Crockart that might institute some long overdue control of this problem.

The present TPS systems simply does not work with these overseascon-artist operations and dealing with yet another bureaucracy OFCOM seems unnecessarily bureaucratic and unnecessary. I continue to get numerous calls supported by torrents of mail from organisations supposedly based in France or Belgium trying to sell what seems to be junk and “tat”. I have written asking them to stop sending this material and to stop phoning yet it still comes. Unfortunately, the phone number was given to these organisations by an ex-wife. If they have a UK Mailing address then they should be effectively controlled. At present as they supposedly phone from overseas it appears they cannot be controlled.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

Benny

As one of the select group of individuals “wishing to protect their privacy”, it seems that you would be an ideal subscriber for the proposed shop. You seem happy with the proposal that this service must be privatised.

If, as suggested, you were offered a guarantee that these organisations would stop calling you, how much would you be prepared to pay? (I assume that the terms of the guarantee would include a complete refund of your subscription.)

Member
samuel says:
25 January 2013

I am very pleased that someone is trying to curb this particular nuisance. I get persistent scam calls (e.g. callers claiming to be Microsoft claiming they need to remove a virus on my PC) usually in an Indian accent. These call seem to originate overseas and TPS as presently set up is therefore irrelevant. It seems that these calls arrive in UK via the internet and are thus ‘free’ to the originator at present

At present BT do not appear to offer any help except as an extra cost service to screen out scam calls. I would like to see BT and other Telecom providers being made to take positive action to offer free screening and suppression of such calls. This will need to be proactive and geared up to respond to new strategies by the scammers.
Another possible strategy is to charge the originator for ‘landing’ calls in the UK so that the mass calling of UK numbers from overseas is no longer cost effective.
It appears that BT suppresses the CLI (Calling line Identification) on international calls. Given the large volume of totally fraudulent calls that appear to originate in India (and other places) it would be helpful to the telephone subscriber to indicate at least country-of-origin if not more.
The CLI/origin information could then be used to filter calls.

Profile photo of steddyeddy
Member

Scam calls and texts to mobiles all tend to be prefixed with +44. Surely in this day and age, it would be easy for all mobile providers to block +44 on an opt-in only basis, or on one that recognises the main body of the telephone number!

Every single “our records show” or “your accident” or “you are owed PPI” mobile spam, without exception that I have received in the past 18 months has been +44 (I report them to my carrier “3” immediately – all other mobile operators have their own spam reporting number – I don’t know how effective their blocking procedures are or if it’s just lip service)).

Come on mobile operators, especially the one that has saved billions by not paying tax, and the ones that save a fortune by not using onshore UK employees – develop a small piece of software to install in the system to ban +44 numbers – it couldn’t possibly cost more than a few tens of thousands of pounds, together with a few quid for advertising.

Member

With modern, computer-controlled electronic exchanges, there is no reason why a phone number cannot have an optional PIN, set by the subscriber using their handset. If I want to call a phone number protected by PIN, I simply need to remember to include the PIN on the end of the number or wait for the prompt.

For callers who don’t have a valid PIN, the subscriber could choose from a range of options to deal with the call:

a) block the call,
b) allow a call-back request to be registered – similar to a missed call log,
c) allow access to voice mail, if a previous PIN is entered.
d) allow unrestricted access to voice mail.

This is a very simple solution that would put control back into the hands (literally) of the consumer and deal with all the current abuses, including random number dialling, calls from unregulated jurisdictions like India, as well as the nastier forms of telephone pest.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

As Em suggests, there is scope for a technical solution.

In the meantime, I wonder if it is possible to request that calls from overseas are blocked, in the same way that couples with teenage children sometimes use call blocking for outgoing overseas calls. I recall seeing UK users’ calls showing up as international calls because they were using prefix numbers to make calls more cheaply, but I have not seen this for several years.

Member

It wouldn’t work for me. I have elderly relatives living abroad and I also need to be able to accept business calls from India. That’s why I suggested the PIN.

I’m ex-directory too, but that doesn’t work. Someone is misusing my personal information, but once the cat is out of the bag, there is little I can do except change phone number. I think adding a few digits to the end (the PIN) would be a lot easier to implement than completely changing phone number.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

Em

When you refer to your personal information being misused, I assume you mean your telephone number associated with your name, as provided in good faith. I also assume that you have no way of knowing who is responsible for this illegal activity.

Under your proposed scheme, one assumes that you would have added your PIN in such a situation, when you knew that you were providing personal information.

If you were to change your PIN and re-issue your number to all your approved callers, without knowing which may have misused the information, surely you are back where you started.

Have you considered existing call blocking options?

Member

nhspatient

Yes, I do mean that, but especially those relying on out of date personal information, which is a breach of DPA 1998, as there is no reason for the information to be retained on their systems.

So no, I wouldn’t automatically re-issue my PIN to every potential caller, only on request.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

When speaking of a “solution” can we please distinguish between ways in which consumers can filter the calls that they answer and the issue of those who engage in activities which are prohibited by regulation, or open to discretionary prohibition under statute, which cause nuisance.

Consumers who acquire (in many cases at no charge) provision of CLI data and purchase equipment to display it (often a standard feature of a handset) already have the option of not answering calls from overseas or where no CLI is provided. (BT now offers a handset with these features built in.) If they are content that no such calls will be wanted, then they have what is referred to as a solution.

This is however in no way a solution for those who cannot make such a clear distinction, or for those cases where a nuisance call is made with perfectly valid CLI. There are a number of advanced call filtering products available, which take the situation further.

I can appreciate the desire of Which? to promote the market for the many existing and potential products and services that seek to address the issues raised by nuisance calls. There are already some fine products, as well as some scam services. Further proposals are made here – commonly being presented as “the solution”.

Unlike most contributors to this conversation, I believe that the statutory provisions in place are adequate (although they are wickedly misrepresented) and they should be properly enforced for the protection of the interests of all citizens, not just those who exercise a consumer choice to purchase an additional product or service.

I have no problem with those who offer valued additional services. I am however very unhappy at those who seek to exploit the weakness of policies presently being followed by various public bodies, for the sake of financial or political advantage, especially when they misrepresent the actual position.

I accept that this view runs strongly against the grain in this forum and am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to have these comments published by Which?

Member

@nhspatient – I agree the statutory provisions are generally adequate, although I do not wish the phone service that I pay for to be used for “market research”, nor do I see why I have to take any action to “opt-out” of other types of call.

As you can appreciate, one set of regulations does fit the requirements and wishes of the entire UK population, particularly where it is based on the concept of nuisance. As far as I am concerned, NO ONE has the right to call my telephone number without my express permission.

Unfortunately, I don’t share your faith in HM Government and their agencies being able to control all dodgy businesses, foreign governments or criminals. There is a law against burglary and the police service, but I have a good lock on my front door.

Finally, I would not expect to pay for a PIN on my phone number. This should be a service that all telecoms providers are required to supply for the well-being and safety of their customers.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

NHSpatient

I do not want to receive any calls from any commercial organisation with which I have no current connection, whether this is marketing or market research. Every time the phone rings, it commands my attention. I don’t want to ignore the phone because the call may be important.

I also don’t see why we should be expected to spend money on devices. I have never purchased anything as a result of an unsolicited call, and I have no plan to do so.

Rightly or wrongly, I regard these calls as an infringement of my rights. If you think that statutory provisions are adequate you may be in the minority. I have enjoyed reading your contributions on other topics.

Member

Of course, I meant to say: “… one set of regulations does NOT fit the requirements … “!

Which? – please feel free to correct my post.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

Perhaps I can respond to both em and wavechange together

With telephone companies and ancillary equipment providers being in the private sector someone, other than the taxpayer, has to pay for the services they provide. Perhaps you are saying that all customers of a provider should meet the cost of whatever call filtering facilities any individual customer feels they need to suit their particular personal requirements.

I may differ from you in seeing the telephone network as a public asset which we access on the basis of clear rules. I do not believe that we have a “right” to use it in whatever way we wish. Where we see that the rules are being breached, our first step must be to demand proper and effective enforcement.

The issue with nuisance calls is that the ICO has only in the last few months started to take its work seriously – and it has a very long way to go. Ofcom has never got to grips with its responsibilities and looks to be ready to further embed this failure, rather than address it. There are other agencies (e.g. MoJ) that could do much more.

You suggest that there is an issue with genuine market and opinion research. My belief is that most unwanted unsolicited calls are caused by activity which falls within the definition of “direct marketing”. Any other habitual activity which causes unnecessary inconvenience annoyance or anxiety could, and should, be classified by Ofcom as persistent misuse.

I do not share the view that the police should only try to protect those who place a strong lock on their door from burglary – the Mike Crockart approach. Nor do I believe that the existence of the Police (or strong door locks) can ensure that there is no burglary.

Understanding of the existing statutory provisions is not helped by the fact that they are commonly misrepresented. It is most unfortunate that the “summary of the law” at the head of this conversation is seriously flawed. It renders any commentary on this aspect of the topic meaningless.

Mike Crockart proposes that the existing “opt-in” provisions (for recorded messages, faxes, emails and text messages), and an imagined consent provision (for Silent Calls), be replaced, or superseded, by some people being able to “opt-out” through a new “one-stop shop”. I cannot see how your comments provide an endorsement for this view, over my call for the existing powers to be used properly with the engagement of a separate agency to handle the citizen’s interest side of things.

I do understand the importance which some place on consumer choice over the enforcement of regulations in the public interest – Which? is fundamentally opposed to any public body having more power than an individual consumer. Putting that radical position aside for a moment, I cannot see which nuisance calls are not covered by current provisions, that could be enforced more effectively.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

NHSpatient

Em wrote: As far as I am concerned, NO ONE has the right to call my telephone number without my express permission. My number is in the phone book and I am happy to receive bona fide calls from members of the public, companies that I buy services from, organisations that I am a member of, and anyone connected with my former employer. It’s scam and market research calls that must stop and any company that calls numbers registered with TPS should be warned and heavily fined if the problem persists.

The TPS works well for me and on the odd occasion that I do get a marketing call from a UK company they have to listen to my lecture and rarely have I had a repeat call.

I can cope with junk mail and rising postage costs are helping deal with the problem. Junk email is not a big problem, though it was when I was getting over 100 unwanted messages a day.

If I have to contribute to the cost of filtering out nuisance calls then so be it.

Member

Yes, I did write that, on the basis that I am now ex-directory as a result of 192.com and their kind. BT is no longer a public service, but a private company and have no more right than any other organisation to resell my personal identifiers. So now, the only legal way a business has of obtaining my phone number is if I have volunteered it.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

OK chaps

It has been well said that everyone has particular personal issues and situations that inform their view. There is nothing wrong in bringing them into the discussion, but I am only really concerned with ways forward to serve the general public interest, covering all possible cases.

The fact that a number appears in a telephone directory (rightly or wrongly) is no justification for the subscriber being subjected to nuisance calls. It has no bearing whatsoever on the relevant statutory provisions.

The issue only gets tricky when we introduce the question of “wanted” and “unwanted calls”. I commonly say that the most unwanted call for me is a call from a dear friend in the middle of a favourite TV programme (in fact there are similarly innocent, but worse, cases).

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

NHSpatient

I have opted-in to receive information from various companies and organisations, related to my interests. This has worked very well for years. If I decide that I no longer want information I let the relevant organisation know and that is usually successful at the first attempt. I know others who do the same and generally have a very good experience.

If time permits, I am happy to respond to requests for information from organisations and companies that I am involved with or have an interest in. I suppose some of it is market research, but that’s fine because I wish to participate. I take part in discussions on Which? Conversation because I can learn a lot and occasionally help people. I have had long discussions with ONS because I see that as a public duty and it is interesting to speculate on how the information might be used.

My comments may be unrepresentative, but I hope that Mike will see them and that others will be encouraged to participate in the discussion, whether they agree or think I’m talking nonsense. I was not aware that you had been appointed ‘to serve the general public interest’ and I apologise if I have missed something. 🙂

To briefly summarise my views:
– we need to stop scam calls
– we need to allow people to opt into receiving both marketing calls and market research calls
– we need to punish offenders

I really wonder how many more years we will have to put up with the problem of nuisance calls.

Profile photo of nhspatient
Member

wavechange

We are actually very close in our views. I will not highlight some minor differences.

I have certainly not been appointed to any position, however I am concerned as a citizen not representing any particular personal or other interest.

I am deeply concerned when I see a reference to “any individual wishing to protect their privacy” as if it could be assumed that those who fail to take the action suggested do not need their privacy to be protected in exactly the same way.

I am also suspicious of those who pretend authority and knowledge and then misrepresent the truth to suit their agenda. All of this is in the context of a most fundamental difference of view with Which? over the power held by public bodies.

Ten years ago, I had hopes that something could be done to seriously address the problem of nuisance telephone calls. Many things have changed over that period, including modest changes to the nature of the problem, but not as a result of proper efforts to address it. There will inevitably be many other changes over the next ten years, I hope this will include serious efforts to address the practice of nuisance.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks. I very much hope that Which? pursue this issue. The only problem that currently I feel more strongly about is the Sale of Goods Act, which does not deliver adequate consumer protection.

Profile photo of william
Member

I think my biggest issue with this “nuisance calls” thing, is there are too many different organisations all with fingers in the “pie” and no one making sure the whole pie just doesn’t slip through their grasp and fall on the floor.

Effective reporting of nuisance calls is hopefully the most important issue, followed closely by aggressive enforcement. With those to in place I or anyone else shouldn’t be required to spend what’s left of my untaxed pounds on gadgets to protect my privacy,

After my rant at ofcom the other week, they finally replied with what can only be described ( by me ) as ofcom marketing propaganda. He defended their lack of action of my mother ( someone without a computer) getting 3 calls from the same number in a few hours, by saying they have 3000 calls a month blah blah blah. He later went on to point out how “wonderful” they are and that they’ve now actually prosecuted someone. Well what about all the other nuisance calls? And how many people would be reporting calls if it were ALOT easier, by say entering a code during or at the end of a call, to flag up to their carrier that this is a nuisance call.

Oh and he even had the check to suggest some of those gadgets.

I fear that if left to their own devices Ofcom will make a pigs ear of any upcoming changes they are planning. You only need to look at how Ofcom have allowed mobile phone companies to rise prices during “fixed” contracts outside any statuary requirements. Clearly servicing business over the consumer.

And what the .. is StayPrivate dot org that’s another body the guy at ofcom suggested I place my details within. Again that doesn’t seem to help those sans computer

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Some interesting media coverage of this topic this weekend.

The fair telecoms campaign responded to some aimless whingeing in the Guardian, by repeating its positive suggestion of a solution. – see http://tiny.cc/ft_the_answer

The Sunday Post also presented a number of stories on the topic, including Mike Crockart in support of its petition being presented at Downing Street and a personal view from another active campaigner. – see http://tiny.cc/FT_sundaypost130217 [PDF]

As interest in the issue mounts, it would be great if Which? could be persuaded to engage in serious discussion over positive proposals for a solution.

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samuel says:
18 February 2013

Regarding the comment by NHSpatient and the ‘fair telecoms campaign’, most of the calls I get (including the scam calls pretending to be Microsoft) are displayed as overseas calls.
I cannot see how an enforcement notice on an overseas call centre or individual could be made effective. I suspect that most of these calls arrive in the UK “via internet” – in other words they arrive here as IP telephony, or IP forwarded calls and so will have no RELIABLE CLI (Calling line Identification) attached.

One thing that would help to protect the public is if the CLI for international and IP forwarded calls differentiated between calls originating from ‘suspect’ areas and these originating on the public switched network (e.g. Europe). This would be something that BT or other operators would have to arrange. Just an indication of country would help.
It appears from the Guardian article that there is work going on to enhance CLI presentation to differentiate call sources. This is sorely needed – for example to distinguish calls from the NHS (e.g. doctors) from nuisance calls that have CLI presentation withheld.

In my opinion it would be a big improvement to display country of origin (when this is reliably indicated) and whether the call originates via IP or via the PSTN (Public switched telephone network – ie normal telephones as opposed to internet). Reliably identifying country of origin of international calls and source appears to require some changes to existing networks.
Once this CLI information is available, then it is feasible to intelligently screen calls. Boxes are available to screen calls now, but will not distinguish (for example) calls from my relatives in France from scam calls (e.g. from India etc) because the CLI presentation is the same for both at present (International Out of Area).
There is a cost associated with this better CLI presentation, but judging by the quantity of calls I receive, the scam calls are clearly making money.
I believe more effort is needed from BT and other network operators to address these scams.

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Please understand that I am not opposed to measures that people may choose to use to filter their calls. Additional assistance can be provided by the telephone companies, however we may be asking too much if we expect them to able to clearly identify “Nuisance Calls” before we answer them.

Individual action is perfectly proper, however I am focussed on the action that needs to be taken by public bodies to protect us all from an illegal public nuisance. It is fair enough for telephone companies and others to develop and sell call screening products and services, but this should not be aided by weak action by regulators, nor used as a reason for such weakness.

The presentation CLI provided is but one of many ways of identifying the caller when the law is being broken. The call is often made by a company which is only an agent of the company in breach of UK law, so its origin and means of delivery is of no ultimate significance. There is also some significant international co-operation on these matters and plenty of opportunity for this to be increased.

To address the problem as a whole, we must also remember that many nuisance calls are made by companies that also make valid calls, and by those who provide proper CLI. I am pleased to hear that there are some who are spared this, however many are not.

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Anthropomorphous says:
19 March 2013

I think that more legislation will only have a limited effect when many companies call from abroad, and many others ignore the existing laws. One measure that would be worthwhiile in all legislation (not just nuisance calls) is a clause that states NO fine can ever be less than the sum the offender stood to make from breaking the law. Anything less simply means that the offender will pay up and keep the profit.

Mike argues that an opt in system would kill the direct marketing industry. So what? Has there ever been any research to find out how much legitimate business these companies do, excluding that acheived by fleecing the vulnerable?

I think that a measure which may offer some worthwhile improvement is legislation to force the telephone companies to offer free access to a comprehensive call blocker service.

Finally, having recently switched from BT to Plusnet, the last unsolicited sales call I received was from BT wanting to lure me back! (I am registered with the TPS.)

Member
Billy Quinn says:
19 March 2013

A bin wagon hit our car on our driveway in September 2010.
Noone was in the car and it was dealt with by the turn of the year.
Then the calls started. I take it that the Insurance company sold our details on.
That in itself should be against the law!!!
I have to answer my phone as I’m a Rep and customers call me from different phones all over the UK.
“It’s about your accident in September 2010” “Was anyone injured” ” You know you can claim”
At first it was a slight inconvience. Two and a half years later and after hundreds and I mean hundreds of calls we are sick to death of it.
Only two weeks ago I got three calls off different companies in four hours.
I’ve been regiestered with the TPS right through all of this and these companies aren’t bothered.
Enough is Enough!!!
The law must be change to stop this nightmare!

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I would simply repeat what you have just posted, Billy Quinn … the exact same scenario, with my car being hit, their fault, no injuries, all sorted …. and then the calls and texts started.

I was waiting for an important call this morning, dashed to answer my mobile, only to find the same nonsense being spoken. I am sick of it, day in, day out.

Surely those whose job it is to work out an answer to this problem, and who are being paid to so do, must ACT.

Member
Frankie says:
10 July 2013

I have well and truly had enough of them all to my landline and mobile. I pay for the service of my telephones only to have them sabotaged by a range of unwanted calls. It seems a very mixed up system that allows this to happen. I cant understand why we the consumer to tele services seem to have such little control despite TPS etc and all the advice given to say to these people to get rid of them. It doesn’t work. I’m plagued by them. I feel I need to rid myself of my telephones, it is so unfair.

If I want any of the telemarketing goods/services they offer I would find my own – I don’t need them to call me and offer it and infuriates me when they tell me I have been mis-sold PPI etc when I know I don’t and never had. Annoyance is there game because they know they are going to get sales based on it, more often than not to shut them up!

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I have found two ways to minimize the grief of cold calls. Firtly, do make sure you have Caller Display. Secondly do not answer any number you do not recognise. If you use an answer phone and the call is genuine the caller will leave you a message. I use the BT 1571 service. This has been free up to now but may be charged for in future; the charge should not be high. I do also have my own answer phone as well but do not use it all the time. The BT service is invaluable in that messages are stored in their system. This means that one can pull one’s own phone out of the socket at critical times, such as when one is cooking, or has visitors, or goes to bed early etc. Any messages will be safely stored at BT and can be recovered when needed.

This procedure in no way diminishes my fury at cold calls and the pressing need to deal with them but it does help sometimes.

Member
Valerie Sheridan says:
28 June 2016

This morning, I have been in contact with a company, who phoned my elderly uncle (94) as a cold call and invited them to take out a contract to cover his boiler. He forgot that he already had cover and agreed to take out a contract with them, giving an ‘audio signature’ and bank details for direct debit. I’ve explained the situation to the company representative re my uncle’s vulnerability, but he was adamant that it was legally binding being 8 weeks in, even though he had not signed and returned the paperwork sent to him, indicating that he understood and complied with the terms and conditions. My uncle lives on his own with a friend’s and my support, but he’s vulnerable to this sort of thing happening when we’re not there.

I feel that it’s very disturbing that companies can get away with this sort of selling and would like to see it addressed.

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The problem now Valerie is that a phone call and a conversation over it indicating acceptance of a contract is legally binding although you can appeal to the company because of your uncle,s loss of memory . You could of coarse contest it precisely on those grounds that your uncles mental health was diminished by contacting a lawyer or you could become a “guardian ” for your uncle by contacting his doctor /health visitor etc but this would imply legal control of his affairs and will depend on how bad his state of mind is. This phone/contract business has caught a lot of people and I dont know why it is allowed except to save money and use the powers of pursuance -ie- sales talk – to rip off people. You cant beat the old paperwork through the door and please read the terms+conditions BEFORE you sign . There are plenty of organisations you could appeal to but at the end of the day ,will they achieve results? It is only fraud if it can be proved that the company knew your uncles state of mind but still carried on with it.