Edinburgh West MP Mike Crockart has published a Private Member’s Bill to tighten the regulation of nuisance calls and texts. In this guest post Mike Crockart explains more about his Bill and how you can help.
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of nuisance calls and texts.
Whether they are selling solar panels; trying to get me to claim compensation for my non-existent payment protection policies (PPI); encouraging me to claim for injuries I’ve never suffered; asking me to buy financial services or to take out pay-day loans.
The products may vary, but my response is the same. I’ve had enough.
Scale of the problem
In July 2012, the communications regulator Ofcom recorded 10,000 complaints. That’s a huge increase from the 3,000 recorded complaints just six months earlier. PPI and accident claims companies were responsible for more than half of all unwanted sales calls and are frequently blamed for the rise in nuisance calls.
Various studies from Which? and Ofcom suggest the problem could be even worse, with some estimating that the level of nuisance calls and texts may even be as high as one billion per year.
Many people complain about nuisance calls despite being registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). With nineteen million phone numbers registered with the TPS – around three-quarters of all landlines in the UK – something clearly isn’t working.
My Private Members’ Bill
So when I was drawn in 11th place in the Private Members Ballot to bring a Bill of my own to Parliament, it was an easy decision what to do. I introduced The Communication (Unsolicited Telephone Calls and Texts) Bill into Parliament to end, or at least lessen, this nuisance.
The Bill includes proposals to standardise the language used when asking for consent to use your phone number. It requires companies to prove they have that consent rather than the regulator proving that they don’t and it puts an expiry date on the use of that data to prevent your number being sold on forever if you forget to tick (or untick) a box!
It will also reduce the burden of proof for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to only have to prove that ‘nuisance’ has been caused rather than the present ‘distress’. This measure is more important than ever after the decision of an appeals judge last week to overturn a fine issued by the ICO to a company sending spam text messages on an industrial scale.
What’s the solution?
I have worked closely with Which? on the detail, as it was important to me that consumers are kept at the heart of my Bill. 91,000 people have pledged their support for Which?’s Calling Time campaign so far and I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
While I am aware that my Bill will not fix everything, I am in no doubt that we need to take action immediately. What that action may look like however, is a matter for debate.
So, I want to know: Do we need a ‘one stop shop’ for people to report complaints? Are call blocking devices the solution, or should the direct marketing industry do more to stop the calls? What should the role of the network providers be in providing a solution?
The Government has agreed that action is needed, just not now, or not exactly what I’m proposing. I believe we’ve waited long enough. We should call time on nuisance calls and for that, I need your help. Does your MP know how much it bothers you? Tell them now. And tell them the solution is available next Friday. Make it clear you want them to support action. It could be a while before they get the chance again.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Mike Crockart, MP for Edinburgh West.