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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.



More calls are from spoofed numbers than witheld numbers these days so the scammers have found a way to get around the rules.

They know the area I live in so appear to be a local call even on my mobile in an attempt to get me to answer my phone. Being a local call I answer then add them to my ignore list.

Until ALL buying and selling of personal data is made illegal, ALL cold calling is made illegal, nothing will change.

And would Richard Lloyd please do us the courtesy of coming on here and explaining why he does not support an outright ban and why he is not listening to the thousands of people who have posted here who want nuisance calls to stop.

Hi James, Welcome to the convos.

I think this is the 71st convo with over 8500 comments overwhelmingly against nuisance calls since August 2010. If you want a round-up go to page 6 of “Nuisance calls crackdown: the progress so far”.

Very little has changed. We are all still inundated with nuisance calls.

Scammers ignore the TPS, spoof numbers etc. and will always find ways around the law as long as they have access to our personal data.

Nobody should have to make sure they tick or untick the right boxes, buy call blockers, register with TPS, be disturbed by nuisance calls all hours of the day and night. Many elderly folks can’t cope with all that and they are the most vulnerable to scammers.

Why Which? continue to support nuisance calls as long as they obey the rules is beyond me. A nuisance call is a nuisance call.

Sick to the teeth with cold callers from 8 in the morning till 9 pm at lease 5 a day and more. the need is to put a full stop to it. we are meant to be private who gave the go ahead to give or sell this on we had no say in the matter, so in fact it was stolen from under our noses


Margaret says:
16 January 2016

The government calling time on withheld numbers from cold calling firms is very welcome, however there is an irony there, as quite a number of government departments use withheld numbers! HMRC is one of them, after one particular week of being thoroughly fed up of withheld numbers pestering us I told the caller that unless they had the curtesy of using a number that showed on screen not to call again (at that point I did not know it was HMRC as he had not identified himself, admittedly I didn’t give him much of a chance). A few days later I received a rude letter from the member of staff at HMRC who had phoned me which was when I realised who the call had been from.

My point is that no one should be using withheld number, if you are calling someone secrecey should not be an option.

In case anyone is interested, I wrote to HMRC to complain about the content of the staff members letter and received an apology and that my records had been noted to the effect to contact me by letter and not phone in future!

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When a doctor, the hospital, the police, etc, call a household they cannot be sure that the person they want to contact is the only one that has access to that telephone. There are many matters where the call recipient may not wish that some or all of the rest of the household know where the call came from. These callers therefore withhold their number on all calls.

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Ian and Duncan, I could write bad language about this just as Duncan has written but stronger
My Dad is attending memory clinic. The staff obviously know this…. I hope.
The only contact details are me and I am clear about not just who the contact is but that all withheld calls will be blocked/not answered
Just like Duncan has written its like a b****y obstacle course agreeing an time for them to arrive
And I have trouble dealing with the idea given about the justification for withheld numbers from hospitals and clinics
If the clinic phones and asks for your son but your son is not at home and you ask who may I say was calling what are they going to say. Are they going to hang up. If they done so they are in dangerous territory as that would be a nuisance call
I dont give a toos whats wrong with who someone owns the phone and someone pays the bill.
If my son or someone else here has the c**p and they dont want anyone to know they,,,, if they had brain cells should have said I’ll call you. dont be calling my house
This is in my eyes anyhow just another lame excuse for being able to call who you like, when you like, from wherever you like without a soul knowing anything
Why all the secrecy.

I think this is a pretty lame excuse. Hospitals should not be an unknown caller, in fact they should be made to leave their main switchboard number at the very least. With the advent of home, call screening devices with built in answer machine; it is very frustrating to be told “Someone rang but left no number” .

Cold call: one that you’re not expecting. Any other definition begins to divide callers by groups which merge into one another – so how can any law possibly ban ‘cold callers’ and avoid victimizing people whose calls are welcomed by other people? Alfa, could you please make us a short list of the groups you want legally penalized for calling you? Then others can comment.

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Injury compensation
Accident claims
Debt management
Pension scams
Problem with your bank account
Identity theft scams
Lottery scams
Home improvements
Home insulation
Energy company switching
Phone company switching
Companies pretending to be your existing provider
Pyramid schemes
Bogus TPS scams
BT support scam
Microsoft Support scam
Apple Support scam
Computer Infected scams
Router infected scams
Investment opportunities
Boiler room scams
Automated calls
Silent calls
Spam texts
Market research
Malicious calls as in DeeKay’s example below
Scams to make you call a premium rate number
You have won a prize………..
You have qualified for……………
You have been selected for ………….
We are doing a special promotion in your area ……….
The government has set aside money for………
This is an important government announcement……….

I have had most of those calls one time or another.

Many of those listed above have a legitimate company waiting to take financial advantage of those nuisance calls. They would be stopped if buying and selling of personal data was illegal.

The whole point of cold calling is to part you from your hard-earned cash and any quick decision made with a stranger at the other end of the phone is unlikely to be a good decision and vulnerable folks are at most risk. But there are plenty of examples of non-vulnerable people right here on Which? convos who have been taken in by scammers.

Cold calling or nuisance calls are all the same to me. They are an unwanted intrusion to my life and my home. If I wanted any of the above list, I would contact them, I don’t want them contacting me.

The PPI and other such calls could be reigned in by the Claims Management Regulator banning use of the telephone for marketing purposes. They already ban these companies from pounding the streets and banging on doors due to the amount of nuisance it would cause.

Many of the others issues that you list are scams. They are carried out criminals and no amount of laws on divulging their number will cease their activities any moreso than a law that required all criminals to leave a copy of their ID at the scene of any crime would do so.

Thank you for an exhaustive list, Alfa. Would you include the relative who’s been given your number by another relative, or the schoolteacher calling you from a personal mobile in emergency about your kid on field trip (and who doesn’t want the number used for work in general) or your bank’s fraud division contacting you about – well, you know, or a local shop you patronize telling you they have a sale on?

None of these will have had your permission in advance to ring you – they’re ‘cold’ calls by definition, unless you’ve redefined ‘cold call’ to mean other than a call you’ve authorized in advance – which is the accepted meaning, despite becoming used colloquially now just for calls people think may be or ought to be illegal. I agree with your list in this sense, and it’s helpful to all of us; thanks for taking the time to write it!

Hi David,
Most of your examples are not trying to get money out of us. I have never had a shop phone and tell me they have a sale on. That is what emails are for and I get weekly emails from local garden centres and stores I have signed up to that I can deal with at my convenience. They all get redirected to a junk mail folder and sometimes I read them other times I do a mass delete, but they are not an intrusion.

We do know you can get called by a fraudulent bank. The answer is simple. If a bank needs to contact you, they just need to ask you to ring them back on another phone with the number you normally call them on or wait 10 minutes to call back. I don’t know if there is a standard, but my phones disconnect a few minutes after the other end has disconnected. I have never had calls from my bank for no valid reason.

Most of my list harass you day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, they just won’t take no for an answer. Even if they did, vulnerable people would still be at risk. So for Which? saying it is okay as long as they follow the rules is ludicrous.

If the harassment calls were stopped, the odd unexpected call would not be a problem to most people.

I agree, Alfa. But preventing number blocking isn’t the answer – my short list is of cases where it’s OK. BT have a case-by-case blocker for outgoing calls: here’s the info off their website.

All about BT 1471

What is BT 1471?
BT 1471 tells you the last number that called – unless the caller withheld their number by dialling ‘141’ before dialling your number, or the call came from a switchboard extension number. 1471 Call Return also lets you return the call straight away, by pressing ‘3’. 1471 is always active and useful even if you have an answering machine.

How much does it cost?
It’s free to use 1471 to find out the last number that called. If you press ‘3’ to return the call there’s a 22.5p charge plus the cost of the call.

What is a ‘withheld’ number?
It’s possible to prevent a number being released when making an outgoing call by dialling the prefix ‘141’ before the telephone number.

This means that when the BT 1471 service is used to find out which number called last, this information is not available. Instead, a recorded message will be delivered informing you that that the last caller withheld their number.

It’s also possible to permanently withhold a number, and some businesses will use this by default.

Does ‘withheld’ mean it will be a malicious or nuisance call?
There are a number of reasons why a caller might withhold their number.

For example, not all telephone lines are able to accept incoming calls. A majority of ex-directory customers withhold their number to maintain their privacy, or the caller may simply not wish to receive a return call (e.g. for a Samaritans volunteer working from home).

Only a small minority of calls are made with any malicious intent.

Does BT 1471 update when a call is answered by BT Answer 1571?
BT 1471 will update in the normal way if:

BT Answer 1571 picks up the call when there is no reply
you have Call Waiting active and are engaged on a call but choose not to take the second call

However, please note that 1471 will not update if a call switches to BT Answer 1571 when the line is busy.

I think we are agreeing calling time on withheld numbers will not solve the problem of nuisance callers.

Withheld numbers are only a problem for people with call blocking phones which they should never be forced to buy in the first place.

Although I do agree legitimate companies should not be witholding their numbers when they can display their central switchboard number.

And don’t get me started on BT 1571 another rip-off service from BT. My parents started using it and could not get to the phone in the seven? rings before the answer service cut in and BT charged me for the privilege.

Alfa, if you object to your parents asking you to leave a message when they can’t get to the phone quickly, there are two obvious solutions: charge them for the call; or arrange with them that you will let the phone ring only twice, then ring off. Then they can see that is you who called them, and ring you back. If you’re not using call blocking yourself, of course!

jetsun says:
13 January 2016

one that is not expected or WANTED! Pffft is that sooooooooooooooo hard to understand!

jetsun says:
13 January 2016

and you posted just a half of what i said….lol

Ok got it I am only allowed to make ! comment p**s off

It’s not just the Scammers that do it, my Doctors Surgury withholds it’s number as well and they can’t understand why I don’t answer! Must be brain dead: they need to see the Doctor, not me.
If people calling me don’t give their number I don’t talk to them! Period.

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Most call blockers are ‘dumb’. They ban all withheld numbers. A withheld number is no different to an unknown number.

A call blocker that issues a challenge to unknown and withheld numbers is a far better prospect.

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Just a quick word. Haven’t time for endless explanations just now but I do see a need again

Yes Duncan’s advice is good
I was at memory clinic with my father Thursday and spoke to reception and told them we had a blocker on and she changed a few things on his details and we left
We then were at our Health Center and I done the same and they said no problem
I got a call from the Health center just before 5pm and the normal number came up
No problems. Simples

peter says:
21 January 2016

Colin I hear what you say, and as a RETIRED doctor I have no axe to grind, but..
The majority of phone systems in a health centre or GP surgery nowadays have a direct dial phone number to all phones. If the number for any phone in the building is displayed whenever it is used to make an outside call, it encourages call back to that number. This is fine for phones that are designated for incoming calls, but for example if the phone on the GP or nurse’s desk rings regularly during consultations it is highly disruptive – for the patients as well as the healthcare professional. It also risks disclosure of confidential information to a third party.
This is even more of a problem if the caller has managed to call in on the line designated for emergency contact from staff to doctor – thereby blocking incoming urgent contact.
As a consumer I absolutely agree that unwanted calls are a huge nuisance: but I probably get as many unwanted calls form numbers which are displayed as those that are hidden – and a number displayed simply as “International” may still be a wanted caller.
My point is that there need to be exceptions and that blocking unwanted sales calls and surveys is a good idea but some numbers should not be displayed for the benefit of all of us.

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How is it proposed to stop UK companies from operating their “nuisance” calls centres from overseas where our government can. presumably, not touch them?

UK companies can’t be stopped until buying and selling of all personal data is made illegal then these companies would be unable to use information obtained from foreign call centres.

Just a shame we can’t use “Data Protection” against those selling our information.

The main culprits are ”comparison sites”. I received countless of calls on mobile and house phone for my sons and husband as i deal with all car insurances. The calls are most of them with a number. I work nights and it is a nightmare! I am suffering greatly as i get woken up constantly!

Point is, Alfa, the illegals will do it anyway. I get calls on one line for a person who’s not had the number for 23 years! You can’t stop these illegal lists from circulating, and almost all of the marketing calls I get are outside the rules anyway. One solution is to make the ultimate benefitter liable – say, a UK legal firm on whose behalf a UK intermediary is getting a bona fide Indian call centre to farm out call lists to illegal Indian casual callers. If challenged, the Indian call centre will deny any link – and isn’t liable under UK law anyway. In such a case, the UK legal firm would have to be proven to be knowingly buying ‘warm’ customers harvested by a call that would be illegal in the UK. Just ask any detective what the chances are of proving that!

I agree it will be difficult to stop calls from abroad trying to get hold of bank or credit card details.

But a great number of calls are from or on behalf of legitimate companies trying to drum up business, often signing you up to contracts you might not really want if you had time to think about it.

Energy companies used to be on your doorstep but doorstep cold calling was made illegal.

So then I started getting a lot of calls asking which energy company I was with. I always told them it was none of their business. When they stopped, Eon started calling. When Eon gave up I got asked again which energy company I was with then heard from Eon again.

This type of harassment would be stopped if buying and selling of personal data was illegal.

At least it would be a step in the right direction.

Malcolm – If the government cannot control the activities of UK companies then we urgently need legislation. I suspect that the vast majority of the population would support this.

Which is why I asked the question. If legislation cannot be used when companies operate from overseas, exactly what is proposed?

Legislation can and does apply overseas. It applies to the company in this country that initiated the marketing campaign.

Thanks James. Determined companies will try to find ways around restrictions. If a UK company subcontracts its “nuisance” calls to an overseas company, who also collect information on behalf of the UK company, how will UK legal action be taken against the UK company? How can it be identified?

We don’t want nuisance calls to continue but with added CLI, we want the nuisance calls to STOP.

Only an outright ban on the use of the telephone for certain purposes can do this job.

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On BT’s network a caller can only change the number that is displayed by subscribing to Presentation Number service (But then BT are in control). Calls from abroad can result in fake numbers being presented because they are passed from the ingress international trunk unscreened. It’s not possible to inject a fake number during the local call set up because the exchange has complete controll of the FSK protocol. It is feasable that during an existing call (conversation) a tone could be injected prior to sending a spoof call waiting tone followed by a fake FSK message.

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Well the point is call centre originated calls from abroad are initiated by software which means they can populate the calling number with whatever they want. FSK is a terminating protocol between the UK exchange and the UK subscriber, nothing to do with the foreing leg of the call.

There are numbers that are unavailable which are often overseas and the term unavailable covers a different reason for that of a caller display number. Maybe Duncan can confirm this but that is my take on that
An unavailable number is technically unavailable, it is not deliberately withheld but I would believe call centres know the countries and are there to abuse the lack of tech there
Most international calls we get now have the callers numbers complete with county code etc

Withheld numbers are exactly what it says on the tin

Someone or some Body has requested BT to withhold their numbers in the manner as they are also often ex directory also

They are not withheld to protect anyone because if that idea stood up then they can only protect the silent and I’ll get to that in just a few lines

If anyone is going to call you and actually speak to you from a hospital or Gov office near all of which withhold their numbers they obliged to give you their name and a return number.

No, there is no good reason to have a withheld number as least not a reason even remotely good enough to make their advantages whatever they might be outweigh their disadvantages unless you are completely heartless.
Whilst I can and always have understood why one would want to stay off the telephone list/directory that theory it is now all but useless because the caller lists are all out there right around the world for anyone who pays for the list and then they can call anyone they wish to call because near everyone has given their number to their banks, or some other “app” nonsense or another questionnaire that required their number

To spout off that Gov needs to stop this mass selling of numbers is naive . The Gov didnt give your number out, you gave your number out.
There is near no way to capture your numbers they are in so many servers by now and constantly moving
This is a big money industry much of which is on the dark web as its called
Threats to prosecute calls from China or dear knows were are an impossible task
It is very obvious right here in our home
I get near no cold calls whilst my wife is tormented. I have a phone phone. One of those things with buttons on the front. It does not use apps. It cant. Neither can it send loads of my personal details around the globe


Now I am hot on this withheld number subject
I never thought not for one second that I would ever get the chance to publicly on a forum such as this get to vent my anger and emotions on this subject. Boy this is a blast from the past

I simple cannot stand people who say to me that they need a with held number. B****s
Too receive a withheld call is to invite hooded person into your living room and talk nicely too them at that
I hate the things

Some years ago in business I received many many threats via withheld numbers or as would eventually turn out A withheld number.
Threats that started as silence as they apparently do and then quickly moved on to just about everything you can imagine including against our Primary aged children
Head Master actually asked me if I could stop simply walking into the school to check as it was disturbing the children.
Before that the receptionist was fed up with me calling to check everything was okay
What the h***l was I to do
This is what with held numbers can and are used for.
Forget your petty inconvenience calls about double glazing or wine offers there are malicious uses for these numbers and it continues today some 20 years after caller display became available and how did this come about??
At the behest of our own Gov. Go check. Fact. BT didnt request it . You, I didnt request this.

Threats to you , your wife, your children. Try that one on for size

Police??????? BT???????????? About as much use as an umbrella in a hurricane.
The Police and BT had their reasons for doing nothing. BT also did not block the number either
Months passed.
Two police officers eventually appeared and it was not without us calling their number countless times but were always told that they needed more time. More time to what.
We were ready to move country. This was not tolerable. Think you know better. Think you can ignore it. When the caller tells you you overtook a red Astra or some similar fact from 2 hours ago and that keeps coming at you you will buckle
“We have ways an means” and the ways and means work
Countless calls since an order had been given to monitor my line.
We done everything to the book, everything. We had a button to press at the threat of a malicious call so it would be recorded
Write everything down. We did that.
The two officers proceeded to tell me that unfortunately they COULD NOT tell me anything about the calls or caller due to security reasons and that the monitoring has been stopped and promptly proceeded to leave the premises.
Now tell me. A UK citizen who was not a criminal and was not involved in anything to do with politics or parties
I followed them and deliberately stood in front of the car and ask them to open a window to I would tell them a few things. A few home truths
So when Duncan or someone writes that our Gov bodies are not what they seem and they will toe the line when instructed they will do just that.
Not long after that a close friend told us that a couple of people already mysteriously lost their jobs or it appeared as such but only for a short time. They had simply been relocated to no doubt reap havoc elsewhere.
I had went from 12st to near 10st over the months and someone who took pity on us put his job on the line and I by the time plod arrived that sunny day we knew exactly where the calls originated from but I had no evidence.

My heart is in pounding in my chest
I will never forget the fear, the anxiety, the terror that a withheld number can cause.
If our gov is going to stop this practice lets get on with it.
Where I am things a are little better than they once were but someone somewhere as your reading this is listening to a threat from a withheld number. Someone somewhere is either abusing their position through this service or there is always the bloody minded who just hate someone so much they are going to cause havoc
Telling them, shouting at them does nothing. Yelling at them just brings it home to them that their strategy is working
There is no reason not even your worst enemy deserves this. Even a thief or rapist gets justice. There in no justice in this caper

Call for and end to this needless feature.
One cannot live alone as an island..
One cannot run away but I sure was being manipulated to do something. Something that I didnt want to do. But it didnt matter. I had the tools for the job. I had the ability and in a round about fashion I was being manipulated to do as others wanted
Go to h*** then and go to h*** now. I might have been down to 10st but once I knew where the call’s originated from I was 20st of anger.

I cannot tell you anymore as I may as well type my name and the names of those involved. I might be mad as hell about this as I recall the abuse but mad maybe, foolish I am not
Its not a bit wonder in this life that I am a wreck.
Now later in life I am a much much less tolerant wreck but would I turn the clock back. No I would not apart from writing the truth about this withheld number service I dont want to go back there

Not all people are bad but many of the worst can hide behind this awful service
End Withheld Number please

Just to add to the abject misery this caused
I have just told my wife about this
Straight away she recalls the caller teller her what our daughter was wearing as in the caller inferred “wearing right now” although once you gather yourself together after seeing her through the school glass you realise you just cannot help yourself. That I was on the ferry and she and our kids were alone.
This is what led us to use our connections to find out how so much information was available and so often
We, A businessman, mechanic, housewife. We were no threat. Why spent time on us. It was not just bizarre it was ridiculous, unless of course someone possesses something you can use. Problem is that some things I didnt want to do.

There are call filter systems on the market, we have one, it allows us to permanently block any unwanted phone number. Anonymous callers are asked to enter a code before the phone will ring. Friends can be listed and get straight through, as overseas calls are “seen” as anonymous family and friends overseas can be given the code. The system I have has many options to chose from. They are not free but for the piece of mind it is worth it.

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The problem is Malcolm that the person never showed although I had my suspicions.
The person had a very big cloak to hide behind.

Debating the matter gets us nowhere! We need action and we need it now!

Is there anybody able to explain what the hell Deekay is rambling on about? Or is it just a wind-up?

Terence. This is as real. I am as real as the person next to you. This happened.
Do you want me to tell the story because given the right assurances I will provided the powers that be behave in a proper manner not as in the past

Hello Terence, welcome to the community.

DeeKay is one of our regular community members. Others write in different ways and though it’s important that we can each understand what each other is saying, please try and be polite. There’s a bit more info in our community guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/

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Maybe if he’d put his point across using concise sentences and adhering to accepted English grammar and syntax I would have understood his complaint. As it was I lost the will to live half the way down and still genuinely have no idea what he’s talking about.

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Terence, when you are incoherent with fear, rage and maybe grief, you too will stumble over your words – spoken or written. Be charitable.

David and Duncan thank you for your little shoulder up on this one
Appreciated I’ll tell ya
I’ll try if I can to write this so you can understand it!!!
I know that sometimes I get a bit wound up and maybe honesty is not appreciated or indeed wanted by some but the truth is the truth beit vehicle emissions and I know my stuff in that one or withheld numbers.
Fact is fact. I detest wishy washy and I detest the idea that “things cannot happen”
Yes David, terror is terror. Even after 20 + years the thoughts still stirred those feelings.
Thanks for seeing that there was a person behind the story.

I told my story about our experience of withheld numbers plus our security whoever they were covering up for the misuse of others.

I wrote the posts simply because I could not but think that this example of the effects of withheld numbers could be anything else except be a prime example of abuse of withheld numbers that goes on past and present so I thought our, my wife and I’s story was valid.

However to see the results we can only use one word stunned.
Stunned at getting thumbs down.
Stunned at degrading comments about my english and grammar with little with not a thought to there being a person behind this.
To say we feel a little like a P***y would not be out of place and we have never before felt this. Never

This was the British establishment, my British establishment who overseen this. This is what went on.

It is well known that there was an entire floor in BT House full of MOD, Intelligence etc undertaking what should have been security work.
Cover up’s of such abuse of a system should not have been their remit but was and indeed as time goes on we see more and more cover ups.

I did not start off to point fingers at establishment as I was pro establishment but between the original treatment we received 20 years ago and the thumbs downs I clearly see that in some eye’s such things simple cannot happen as our UK is too fluffy and caring.
So I’m off now to have a little think about a few things for a day or two


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Hello everyone, I can understand the charged feelings in this thread. Your experience DeeKay was obviously very distressing. And I’d ask everyone who perhaps doesn’t understand what another commenter said to ask them politely to clarify what they meant.

It’s hard when you’re commenting online with people who have alias’ and similar avatars that there are people with feelings at the other end, but I hope as you comment more on Which? Conversation you’ll come to realise all the different people and characters in this community.

I’d also ask the regulars to try and give new people the benefit of the doubt and point them in the direction of the community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/ and try not to take thumb votes to heart, they usually come right in the end.

Duncan, I’ve reached out to DeeKay on email and I’m sure we’ll see him back here very soon. Thank you.

DeeKay might ramble on a bit but his heart is in the right place. I hope he will be back soon.

Although his thumbs down have now been negated, if he had seen thumbs up earlier maybe his feelings would not be so hurt. Is this a case for seeing both?

I was interrupted while typing so see my post is already out of date.
Good to see you back DeeKay.

I am still inclined to favour thumbs up votes only. If you disagree with a comment, then I’d rather the reason was given in a reply.

Malcolm I may at times be a pain but I’ll second you on that one!!!!!!

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In DeeKays case isn’t it better to show your disapproval with a thumbs down rather than start a flame war? Or see how many others support you with a thumbs up.

I may be wrong but I thought most of the ideas suggestions went down at one point. It appears there is little interest whereas if both positive and negative totals were shown, a different picture might emerge.

It doesn’t bother me if I get thumbs down. Sometimes I expect it, other times I explain myself, other times I just move on. But I do like to see both.

I think you should be able to see both or remove the thumbs down as I don’t like the false picture they portray at the moment.

I replied personally to you just now but can I say a public thanks for your message
I’m sure I’ll get over it. H**** worse has happened to me but the old addage stick and stone etc is often true
Thanks Patrick

Thanks Duncan for your support. A little stiff upper lips never goes amiss

Duncan, I read most of what people say and respond, where I feel it is appropriate, with my own opinions and what I believe is relevant information and facts that I have or that I have sourced. I accept that my opinions may not meet with everyone’s approval, and the facts I put forward may be challenged, or interpreted differently.

It seems to me that this acceptance is the essence of a good debate or conversation.

However, I must admit to being concerned when someone says:
“I have fought many fights on other websites with people who have challenged me and I overcame them”
“I have torn people to pieces intellectually elsewhere ”
This suggests they believe they have superior opinions and knowledge, which I regard as a dangerous presumption.

I hope you don’t mean your comment in this way, because much of what you put forward I read with respect for your views. But it can be misconstrued -;)

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Thanks for the response Duncan. My difficulty is that when someone asserts as you sometimes do it requires an “act of faith” on the reader’s part to believe you are in the privileged position of holding the knowledge that you do. And as I personally don’t know you I can’t make that judgement.

I have no doubt the success of many spies, government agents, politicians and the like is down to their ability to convince us that what they say is true.

Please don’t misunderstand me -:) . I am not casting aspersions on your veracity, simply pointing to the dilemma that I am put in when reading some comments, particularly those regarding government and politics!

Let’s get back to talking about withheld numbers if we can… thank you

Perhaps then some of the questions that get asked about, for example, how action could be taken might be answered?

Hi DeeKay and Duncan, it would be great if you could give new people the benefit of the doubt and as regulars show them how it’s done by not responding in kind. Thanks very much both.

Do you really think the scumbags calling me to tell my my PC has been infected give a rats bottom about giving any kind of caller ID; spoofed, witheld or even possibly genuine? Would Which like to turn its posturing to sorting out THAT one?

Exactly. Criminals will not comply with this law any more than they comply with other laws. This new law will have no effect on those sorts of calls.

Withheld is not disastrous….it can be local Hospital or GP or VET etc., reminding of family appt. If not appropriate to you, just tell them to bugger off and put the ‘phone down
What is bad is the UNAVAILABLE ?????? even INTER-UNAVAILABLE, could be very disconcerting for folk who have relatives abroad to receive an unsolicited call….
A wide and difficult subject…..but surely we have the technoligy to shut it…them…whatever down. If any one enoys having these calls they need to “sign” up to something to say O.K.

Jay, Yet again I cannot believe another being just wrote that withheld is not a problem. Would you read above posts and tell me I had no problem.

There is a service called Anonymous Call Rejection. In this case they would receive an announcement that you do not wish to receive the call unless they release their number.

Which you have to PAY for, why should consumers have to spend additional sums to stop anonymous calls?

Offcom believe witholding your number is a legitimate feature. There are plenty of people/organisations that do not want to present their number e.g. emergency services and the police. The issue is with fake geographic numbers and ‘unknown’ numbers which you can’t block. BT would much prefer everybody to present a real dialable number because unanswered calls are lost business.

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There’s no difference between a withheld number, an unavailable number or an unknown number. In all cases you don’t know who is calling.

For privacy reasons, doctors, hospitals, police and various charities withhold their numbers. It is important these calls get through. Unfortunately a proliferation of badly designed over enthusiastic call blockers also block these types of calls.

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Xykon says:
12 January 2016

Nothing will ever change. All you can do is use Skype numbers or similar forwarding services where you change your phone numbers every few weeks. Just like temporary email addresses that expire automatically after they send you an activation/download link.

This isn’t about withheld numbers, but I thought you might be interested in this latest news:

A company responsible for making almost 40 million nuisance calls in just three months has today had its licence revoked.

Falcon & Pointer Ltd used automatic dialling technology to make millions of calls about mis-sold PPI in 12 weeks – leading to hundreds of complaints by the public.

The Claims Management Regulator (CMR) also found people had been coerced into signing contracts without enough time to understand the terms and conditions before payment was taken.

This was a serious breach of the regulator’s rules on conduct and means that Falcon & Pointer must cease handling claims immediately.

More here: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/01/ppi-firm-behind-40-million-cold-calls-shut-down-429818/

If they had not used automatic dialling and given people more time to sign contracts, presumably they would have been following the rules so would be able to carry on with their nuisance calls.

Exactly. The ICO has to scratch around to find reasons to issue penalties. In many cases, they are the wrong regulator for the job.

People don’t want more penalties to be issued. Issuing penalties shows that there has been a failure in regulation. What people want is for the nuisance calls to STOP.

This could be achieved by individual sectorial regulators banning use of the telephone for marketing purposes within their sector. Until that happens there will be little or no progress.

So far there has been zero progress – the number of nuisance calls is still going up.

We get hardly any calls of this sort, and as we have no difficulty in swiftly and peremptorily ending the conversation once we’re clear that we’re not interested, they don’t pose a problem for us. The few that we do get, having tried once, never call back. We must be doing something effective, but I’ve not the faintest idea what it is!

You are very lucky, John. I have had thousands of nuisance calls to my landline number, but only two to my mobile, and I have had the same number for years. I know others who get nuisance calls to their mobiles.

The action has been taken by the CMR part of the Department of Justice. It was set up in 2010 to regulate a specific aspect of the nuisance call scourge – Claims Management Regulator.

This was the BBC said in an article in December 2015
“The CMR, which is based at the Ministry of Justice, has been able to remove licences from claims management companies since 2010 and was given powers to financially penalise companies in December 2014. A spokesman said it had fined four companies so far, with this case incurring the largest penalty.”

I suspect you are all as impressed as I am how much it has done since 2010. This is the kind of dynamic action that is so impressive.

Which?’s slogan is or perhaps now a !was! “Calling time on nuisance calls” which seems a fundamental easily understood promise to end the scourge – this was what people signed up for but is not what we are now being offered by Which?.

Talking of more direct action what has Which? done about Pharmacy2U a NHS approved on-line pharmacy which sold customer details to a Australian scam operator knowingly. They were fine £130,000 which seems ridiculously light. Should not Which? have a black list of companies [and charities] who have sold on customer/donor details?

I think it could be very truthfully be said that a survey of Which? subscribers would provide a mass of support for information that allows us to boycott those companies/charities we think have been punished too lightly or inadequately by the regulators.

I realise that this organisation having both a Board and a Council primarily of business people and ex-regulators would probably find this usurpation of the way they would like to operate upsetting but Which? is simply not being forceful enough.

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I bought bt care control telephones and have had no nuisance calls since. Best money I have ever spent. I wish I had done it a lot sooner

bishbut says:
13 January 2016

I never answer withheld numbers or any I do not recognise a caller display is a must but they must now be provided for free ,your next campaign the only calls I answer are those which are on my contact list and appear as names

In this case, you may miss important calls from doctors, hospitals, the police, etc – perhaps an important call to let you know that a relative has been taken ill or has had an accident.

In reality, there is no difference between an unknown number, a withheld number and an unavailable number. In all cases you do not know who is calling until you answer the call.

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There is a difference. A withheld number is one that is known but withheld on request. An unknown number is one that doesn’t conform to the numbering plan. An unavailable indication means just that. Callers with authority can overide withheld barring so if the police want to call you they will.

Withheld numbers are a red herring. If they were to start showing a number, but the number is one that is unknown to you, you still have no idea who is calling until you answer the call.

While I was putting together a list of nuisance callers, I was called at 8.30 this morning by “Rose” with an accent from Verso Group a “legitimate” Lead Generation Provider.

She was doing a survey on consumer feedback to improve services in my area. She promised she wasn’t selling anything and had only 3 questions. Don’t know what make and the age of my car had anything to do with services in my area. As I couldn’t remember the make of my car she put me down as an Audi and I think she put me in the 35 age group being over 18.

She had no problem saying and spelling Verso and even gave me the website name but answers to all my other questions were gabbled and unintelligible and she quickly went back to her questions in a voice I could understand.

Which? think calls from charities and marketing companies are ok……….

Was “Rose” really from Verso or just saying she was to get around the rules?

We live in a dishonest world and you cannot trust the person on the other end of the phone is who they say they are.

Anyone can say they are from a charity or marketing company, we have no way of knowing whether they are telling the truth which is why ALL cold calls/nuisance calls need to stop.

A sad story of a vulnerable lady who ended up on a “Suckers List”:


Another reason to make buying and selling of personal data illegal.

Miles says:
13 January 2016

The problem is calls mad through switchboards show as Withheld

indeed so Miles. Also private calls from abroad – my sister’s always come up is “international” which is also how some nuisance calls show. I don’t see a universal solution to this that determined people cannot circumvent.

A partial solution would be for BT to filter out calls on ingress international trunks that contain UK geographic numbers. It’s a nonsense that a call from an Indian call centre displays a UK number. As for calls that display unknown or international there’s not much you can do as legitimate calls (i.e. non call centre) can arrive this way.

That’s the Companies problem to sort out IF THEY WANT THE BUSINESS: get their system updated and then we will talk to them! In the mean time the discourtousy of withholding the numbers will not get any responce no matter who it is!

Withheld numbers are a red herring. If they were to start showing a number, but the number is one that is unknown to you, you still have no idea who is calling until you answer the call.

Janet says:
13 January 2016

It’s a good initiative but won’t stop calls from abroad or calls rerouted through British numbers. I always block these calls but they just come from a different number

If my memory serves me correctly over 25 years ago the switches used by the newly formed mobile phone companies had a filter to allow users to choose Anonymouse Call Rejection.
All calls with the number witheld would be blocked if chosen, but it was deemed not lawful by the EU and so could not be used.
Could have stopped the problem before it began.

My landline and mobile both have this facility and I use it 100% of the time! It is not illegal!

This is killing me!!!!
Colin, Right on.
Wifey loves your avatar by the way. Wonders if you are as cute??
I advertise odd things now and again and I state always that no withheld numbers will be answered. Still doesnt stop them trying. Stops me talking to them though but with my Dad now I have to answer all the s***t withheld. Hadn’t answered them in years
I see someone refer to switchboard numbers being with held in that switchboard numbers have to be withheld.
Maybe again Duncan can correct me if required but I receive calls from company switch boards with no problem
I once had a friend come customer who when he was promoted to management in a power station made it a condition that their withholding number policy be changed before he accepted the post
He absolutely refused to take his seat until he could phone out and as he put it not be wearing a mask.
My daugher has worked in Canada for around 4 years. My Mum is there since 1968 and we have very good friends there and all their numbers including the code comes up as does once mates of my own in Queensland Australia.
Probably not everywhere as yet as these numbers only started coming up in recent years
Who said Health Centre. Yes pain in the butt. My Dad is old and Health Centre, Hospitals, Social Worker’s etc, they all have withheld numbers yet they reach you a card with the number on. What is the purpose of that???

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Yes Duncan, I could not believe that modern equipment could not as requested
Dear me the simplest PLC in its day could do this type of thing and personally I am not even on the bottom rung of digital age stuff today
If the truth be told I try my best to keep our stuff analog and have all the spare chips in a metal box
So near the end you give examples of business’s that had a regular use for withheld numbers and one of them was call centers.
I wonder why anyone would wish to call them back to give them grief!!!!!!
How have we gotten to this point that it is acceptable for complete strangers to cold call at all
This should never have been allowed. If I want something I go get it or go on line and order it. Not once have I answered the phone and wanted or needed their service but I gather they prey on the elderly and soft.
I did have to bring myself several charities that were hounding wifey to remove our number and a few did but there are others that I think look familiar but we are not answering them
As to paying for a blocking service. Why should I have to pay to NOT receive calls.
Surely that has to be another money making excercise just the same as when I call the Health Center I have to wait to a voice tells about, press one for medical emergency. Press two for repeat prescriptions Press three for test results. If you require an appointment of other service please wait and a receptionist will be with you shortly and when I walk in the door the same girls are answering the calls eventually anyhow.
I ask them one day why is this system in place and if they liked it. Irene told me not a bit difference except a different light lights up on the phone but most folk just wait to the end anyhow.
They had no choice. Engineers arrived and in it went.
All the seconds add up. We are paying for nothing again

Credit ratings companies now there you have one that might be an exception. There will always be one or two that need protection but a number today does not give away location so the overall requirements for withheld is fast dwindling in my minds eye.

Stuart Latta says:
13 January 2016

I think the change is ineffective; I have now started getting cold calls from the purported number 00000000000. It’s just the same – but different. I let my answerphone do the work for me.