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New nuisance calls report rings in the changes

A phone bursting through the background

The All Party Parliamentary Group’s inquiry on nuisance calls today published its recommendations. In this guest post, the group’s co-chair Alun Cairns explains what they think should be done to tackle cold calls.

I’ve been campaigning for some time to reduce and eliminate nuisance calls and text messages. People are fed up with receiving calls and texts trying to sell gas or electricity; promoting claims for the miss-selling of payment protection insurance; to see whether you have had an accident; or asking you to buy a financial service.

Before introducing new laws in Parliament in this area, I needed to gather clear evidence from interested parties.

Therefore, earlier this month I co-chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuisance Calls inquiry. We heard evidence from BT, Talk Talk as well as Ofcom, Which? and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) among many others.

Taking on nuisance calls

Under current legislation the definition of a nuisance call is unclear. The type of call will also determine where a complaint should be made – to Ofcom or to the Information Commissioner.

You can register with the TPS to prevent live sales and marketing calls, but Ofcom deals with silent and abandoned calls.

In order to make a compliant, you will need to know who has called you and be able to pass on their telephone number. This is often impossible as most companies withhold this information.

Receiving a withheld number could be compared to answering the door to someone who is wearing a balaclava. We simply wouldn’t answer, so why do we allow it on the telephone? Consumers should be able to know who is calling them, choose whether to answer the telephone or not and complain when they receive nuisance calls.

The complaint system needs to be easy and straight forward and to one organisation – possibly in an automated way.

An easy way to report calls

If you receive an unwanted text message, it is easily reportable by forwarding it to 7726 (which spells SPAM on the telephone keypad). A similar service is needed for nuisance calls on a fixed line.

All companies making outbound marketing and sales calls should be required to provide their Caller ID, free of charge and register it centrally, perhaps with Ofcom. Companies should also be able to provide proof of the individual’s consent, allowing them to call them, at the time of the call.

Anyone who receives a nuisance call should then be able to call back, on a non-premium rate number, to find out who called them and be given an opportunity to opt out of receiving any further calls from that company.

These are just some of the main recommendations that the APPG has included in our final report (PDF), published today. I am pleased that the industry, regulators and the Government are all keen to engage positively with the issue. I do not believe that any of these things are particularly difficult to achieve, or too much to ask to enable people to stop receiving nuisance calls.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Alun Cairns MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuisance Calls inquiry. All opinions expressed here are Alun’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Paul says:
1 December 2013

My mother gets a nuisance call most days from people trying to give her free boilers. She keeps explaining to them that she isn’t eligible, and they apologise and hang up, but the next day they’re back. After 100+ of these it gets pretty irritating to say the least.

When you have an elderly parent with serious health issues you have no choice but to go & look at the caller display, even if this means getting out of the shower. You can then ignore International out of area calls but CANNOT ignore Withheld – private caller calls as the NHS uses these.
It is time that market research companies did not have exemption from TPS & that withheld private caller numbers were restricted to only the NHS & connected services i.e. care services.
My local library uses a withheld number when advising me of the availability of a book – why?

Also all telephone providers should provide caller display for free. Many elderly people, who are the most vulnerable, are also those with limited incomes.