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Update: Calling time on withheld numbers

Withheld number

The Government has announced a crackdown on withheld numbers, making it a legal requirement for companies to provide a valid number when they call you. How many calls from withheld numbers do you get?

‘Withheld Number’. ‘No Caller Id’. ‘Unknown Number’.

How often do you see and hear these words on your home phone, mobile or when you dial 1471? (If you’re going out with Adele you probably have at least a thousand of these…)

Frustrating isn’t it?

Without knowing who’s calling you it makes it difficult to report the call as unwanted to the regulators, or to us.

Win for our campaign

Which is why the announcement from the Government today is such a significant step forward for our Calling Time on Nuisance campaign. The Government has announced that it will be a legal requirement for marketing callers to provide a valid phone number that can be displayed when they call you.

We’ve been calling for mandatory Caller Line Identification (CLI) since we launched our campaign, and it formed one of the recommendations in the Nuisance Calls Action Plan, so it’s a victory for all our supporters that the Government is taking action on this issue.

Marketing companies that don’t display their number will face heavy fines from the regulator – over £1.14 million in fines were imposed on firms last year for nuisance calls and texts.

Why is CLI important?

Caller ID is pretty important because, without it, it’s hard to know who’s calling you and that then makes it harder to report nuisance calls to the regulators. I think I get at least three of these a week with corresponding voicemail’s telling me I can make a claim for my ‘recent road accident’. (The fact that I haven’t driven for five years makes this all the more baffling).

We know that mandatory CLI won’t put an end to nuisance calls, but it will certainly help. It will help you spot nuisance calls (you can see the rundown of our top ten most reported numbers here) and therefore, make it easier for you to report them and action to be taken.

We believe that responsible businesses should have nothing to fear from telling people who is calling. In fact, three in ten people say they’d be more likely to think of a company positively if the company committed to showing their number when calling.

The six-week consultation closes on 23 February 2016, after which the Government plans to bring the measure into force in spring this year. We’ll continue to update you on the progress of mandatory CLI and will keep pushing the Government, businesses and regulators to cut nuisance calls off at the source and make senior executives personally accountable if their company makes unwanted calls.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on mandatory CLI – how many calls from withheld numbers do you get?

Update 24 April 2016 – Date set for new rules

The Government has now set a date for when direct marketing companies will be forced to display their phone numbers when making unsolicited calls – 16 May.

Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister responsible for data protection, said:

‘The Government is committed to tackling this problem, which is why we are making it easier for consumers to report companies by forcing them to display their phone numbers.

‘We’re sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.’

This change to legislation will not only make it easier for you to refuse to answer a call from a number you don’t recognise, reporting unwanted calls will be simpler too. This should lead to the regulators fining more nuisance calling companies.


Nashga says:
14 May 2016

you’re misrepresenting my point. I understood this stream to relate to the announcement that telephone Marketing Companies must use a valid display number.
I would indeed like it to be the case that such companies were not able to cold call me without prior agreement – or possibly an existing relationship – is that not the purpose of registering with the TPS?
With regard to the rest of your rant – you’re descending to the absurd.

Nashga, this was discussed in January when the conversation began, and I made the point then that the reputable companies will generally follow the law (not because of fines, but because of bad publicity), while the ‘bad guys’ will ignore it all, if they think they won’t be rumbled.

A couple of weeks ago, the conversation was updated with the government decision that valid numbers (that, when called, would connect to the original caller) must be shown on caller displays from 24th May. This gives legitimate cold-calling companies enough time to get in an engineer to make the adjustment. Such companies are required to observe the Telephone Preference Service rules. So, if you want pukka cold-calling companies to leave you alone, register with the TPS now!

Of course, the dodgy companies will still call you, and the spammers and scammers, and Auntie Eda that you’ve not heard from for a decade. To avoid the crooks, use an answering service or machine. And never give out confidential information over the phone, no matter how plausible the blandishments or the supposed emergency!

The absurd is expecting crooks to obey the law. The rest of my comment shows the absurdity of being able to get prior permission for a cold call – by any medium. If there’s any prior agreement, it’s not a cold call!

Being listed on the TPS is refusing prior permission. People used to put “no hawkers or circulars” on their front door because they didn’t want their bell being rung by these people. What Which? is asking for is a similar facility for telephone subscribers.

It seems ridiculous that some companies resort to lawyers to do tricks to force their way in (such as having terms and conditions of use that allow an organisation with whom customers dealt with to sell their telephone numbers and addresses). This costs money for the company.

A customer who is on the TPS has clearly stated that he doesn’t want such calls, so how can a sane person expect him to give business to anyone making such a call?

Making these calls to people who don’t want them is an idiotic crime. Maybe people who do it (or employ others to do it) should face a choice between a fine or a compulsory course in elementary logic.

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Kev Inn says:
14 December 2016

Most CLIs from these rogue callers are made up. They are usually 1 digit short of a valid number format but use proper STD codes. As a businessman taking FOUR OR FIVE a DAY of these automated messages trying to sell me boilers,PPI claims, loft insulation (meaningless to a business premises) I can’t use caller display as the line is through a PABX that doesnt support CLI. I can only dial 1471 by which time it’s too late and another abandoned job or meeting terminated early to take these nuisance calls.

Did this ever become legislation – I get regular marketing calls from “Withheld” numbers? If it is now legislation that this should not be happening, how do I report the fact that it is?
As these companies don’t care about breaking the law, we’re helpless.

Someone called Bob keeps phoning me at inconvenient times- he sounded old and lonely so I put up with his nuisance calls until I realised not only did he pretend to know me but might be digging for information. I found after the last but one call that his number is withheld. I think he might be a sex pest- how do I get rid of his calls and stop him bothering me ?

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I keep getting withheld number calls this particular one I have answered several times and it is a Funeral Plan Service. I just need to find out which one now so I don’t use them when I decide to take out a funeral plan. When I do find out who it is, I’ll be putting it all over the social media and hopefully put them out of business, then they’ll know what a dying trade it is!! 🙂

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As much as I agree with this as I fallen victim to several of these types of calls. adn understand how terribly annoying and sometimes rude these people are.
This does concern me a little though, as I work from Home and have to call up companies for mostly for Credit Controlling and accounts related matters for the company I am employed with – obviously I withhold my personal telephone number as I’m sure they would not appreciate having my unhelpful teenagers answer the calls, and the fact that when I’m am technically not working, the last thing I want is to have calls in my ‘personal/family’ time. I should imagine other home-based jobs will be affected too.
Is this likely to affect me and my only available way to work ?

If you are making a business call to a residential subscriber this new regulation will directly affect you and it will be illegal to withhold your number. If you are calling a business number the regulation will not apply, but surely they will need to have your number in case they need to call back. The best way to deal with this is to have a second line for business calls only and not answer it at times when your ‘office’ is not open – an answering machine-combined telephone is a good way of providing basic opening hours information and taking messages.