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More nuisance calling companies to face prosecution

Stop button on nuisance calls phone

Good news for those fed up with nuisance calls. The Government has announced that it will soon change the law to make it easier to prosecute companies making unwanted calls and texts.

Last year tens of thousands of people complained to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about nuisance calls. But, until now, firms have been able to evade prosecution because victims had to prove ‘substantial harm or distress’.

With the help of 142,000 supporters, we convinced the Government to consult on removing or lowering the threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to take action against nuisance calling companies.

More rogue firms fined

Today the Government announced that it would make good on its promise to change the law. This legal threshold will be removed on 6 April 2015, giving the ICO the power to intervene in more cases and fine rogue firms up to £500,000. The regulator now needs to send a clear message by using its new powers too full effect without delay.

But, you can play a big part in helping to identify the nuisance calling firms and make sure they’re prosecuted. It’s really important that you report nuisance calls, and we have a tool to make the process of complaining easier. Making a note of the company and, if possible, the phone number that’s calling you, will make it easier for the ICO to investigate and take action.

Senior executives held to account

Last year I chaired a task force on how people consent to marketing as part of the Government’s Action Plan on Nuisance Calls. In December we presented the Government with 15 recommendations to tackle unwanted calls and texts.

These calls are an everyday menace blighting the lives of millions, so the task force advised that senior executives should be held accountable if their companies are making nuisance calls. In another step forwards, the Government today confirmed that it would look into how they would be held to account.

These are big steps in the right direction, but it’s not the end of the line for our campaign. There’s still work to be done to end the scourge of nuisance calls and texts, but we couldn’t have achieved this much without your support.


For the last six months since I moved home, I have had no landline. It’s fantastic, as it eliminates all these annoying junk calls. Genuine companies phone me on my mobile and friends and family use Skype or Viber. Landlines have become so unnecessary and now serve only to allow nuisance callers to intrude into one’s home at a negligible cost. I have gigabit broadband for which I pay £40/month, delivered to my home via fibre instead of a telephone line.

Get them on my Mobile too!!

And where I am mobile signal too poor to replace landline reliably.

So your solution not much good hereabouts.

I get the same types of call on my mobile too and apart from going on a list to stop them I don’t know what else to do. With regards to landline, I gave reported these calls to BT and they have said that they have also put me on a list but to try and get the names and phone numbers of the company calling. I am registered disabled and a pensioner and getting up to answer these stupid calls is a nightmare. Would it help if I came off BT, and am supposed to be ex directory||| Any suggestions

Thanks Anna

Thanks for the continuing efforts from Richard and his colleagues. I’ve just posted on another Convo that I have had about one nuisance call per week in the past three months, whereas it was up to ten a day at times a year or two ago. Others are still having problems, so we need to keep up the efforts.

I am still in favour unsolicited calls to be opt-in rather than having to opt out via the TPS. What right has anyone to make phone calls to people in their homes or on their mobiles?

Despite literally millions of complaints about nuisance calls, the ICO has penalised less than a dozen companies so far. They are the wrong regulator for the job, especially since any penalties they issue are not allowed to cause financial distress or harm to the company concerned. The ICO does not have the power to close a rogue company down.

One company appealed the decision, and won on the basis that “substantial” harm or annoyance hadn’t been proven. The ICO itself asked for this loophole to be removed almost two years ago, but there has been a long delay. Now, just before the election, there is to be a minor amendment to the regulations.

Anyone that thinks this minor change to the wording of regulation that has been seen to fail for the last decade or more is some sort of “magic bullet” is delusional. This will have minimal effect. The ICO is badly under resourced and has limited powers. They are not likely to suddenly start dishing out hundreds of penalties.

Individual sector regulators hold the power to suspend or revoke licenses to trade. In those sectors where nuisance calls are a problem, a simple regulation banning the use of leads collected by telephone would bring most nuisance calls to a rapid end. Critically, it would also remove the market for selling in this country any leads collected by overseas call centres.

The changes announced today do need to be made. They are, however, just minor tweaks to flawed regulation and will have little effect in the grand scheme of things. Do we really have to wait several more years before proper action is taken? Presumably this topic won’t be revisited until just before the elections in 2020.

I invested in a new phone 4 months ago (I needed a new phone anyway). Not had a single call bother me, the phone deals with them all.

It’s done me more good than all the regulators combined.

That’s fine if it suits you, William. It’s not a solution for everyone, as various people have pointed out in these discussions.

Since the news broke, I’ve had 9 calls from withheld numbers and 2 international.

Rollerdave says:
27 February 2015

My wife was at home today on leave and had 6 phone calls from these nuisance callers. I had 3 on my mobile whilst at work. So in one day 9 calls and not one from somebody I wanted to talk to.
These companies and callers are literally stalkers making life hell. The Government needs to do more than fine these people. Instead lock them up and throw away the key.

Nuisance callers are now, instead of withholding their number, supplying a number which can look genuine but cannot be recognized if you call back. 002071234567 is one such number;the number is one digit too long but if you phone this number, omitting the first digit you will hear a message that they are sorry but this service is no longer available, or in other words number withheld.

Eileen Roberts says:
28 February 2015

This past week I have had calls on Solar panels ,Alarm systems ,and Research.How many times do you have to tell these people you don’t want solar panels, how many times do you have to tell them you already have an adequate alarm system and that your daughter has her own research company and that you dont answer questions for other firms .It will be the same next week and the house calling for new windows has not stopped either .3 called recently .but worst of all is if my dog doesn’t recognize the callers scent he rips a lump from my front door mat .and it’s getting expensive .perhap I should sue for replacements .

MaryB says:
28 February 2015

Just experienced today what could be a disturbing new sales tactic by these people. Woken up by phone ringing 7.15AM Saturday morning – coming too and having elderly parents and 18yr old who was sleeping over at friends I assumed must be genuine call and answered. Silent call. I did a 1471 thinking one of them not in a position to speak or battery died -. number starting 001. So reassured and assumed someone at call centre had turned their automatic dialler on at ridiculous and I assume illegal hour (what are the regulations) Didn’t have a pen paper to hand in dark so went back to sleep thinking would repeat 1471 later and report to appropriate people. 15 minutes later woken up again by phone ringing. again silent call. did 1471 – but this time no caller number (and now original 7.15am number lost) By this time very annoyed at lack of sleep!! and inability to report anyone specific. Bad enough BUT then at 10.30am received a call from (number withheld) clearly offshore eastern based marketing company masquerading as TPS (had them call before and they are quite good at pretending to be “official” ) saying they “understand that I am still being troubled by unsolicited marketing calls etc etc.” By this time exceptionally annoyed and told the woman in no uncertain terms that as sales tactic of making 7am nuisance calls and then trying to sell useless solution was completely unacceptable. Very concerned that this sort of tactic used on more vulnerable recipients likely to both result in purchases of useless services and very worried people.

Brian says:
28 February 2015

My worst source of nuisance calls (texts) was my ISP (vodafone) – up to 6 a day. I hope they’ve at last stopped.

Adrian says:
28 February 2015

I am plagued by these calls on my mobile. As I can have legitimate business calls at all hours from unknown and witheld (or simply unavailable International numbers), I cannot reasonably ignore numbers I do not recognise.
However – at least where I do have a number – I have now discovered the caller blocking feature on my phone.

I would like companies who make these unsolicited calls to be forced by law to disclose on request (at the time, when they call) where they obtained my phone number from – along with proof that I have given my informed consent for them to call me.
This would at least give me the opportunity to write to the people dishing out my number and warning them of the consequences (suing them for harassment) if they do not desist immediately.

Companies are already forced to law to disclose how they obtained your details and your consent. The problem is that the companies who call you will refuse to give out their contact details, or just provide false details. Therefore, the law can’t be enforced.

J.Howarth says:
28 February 2015

The problem with the complaints process and resulting law changes is that the majority of my unsolicited / silent calls are ‘number not known’ or ‘number withheld’.
Where is the action on these companies?
And TPS has no effect at all, and is no deterrent.

The system knows where the call is coming from. What is needed is universal caller ID which cannot be turned off – but supplies a unique ID and NOT the calling number. This is technically simple, but unpopular with businesses since it facilitates smart call blocking.

When I asked my MP to act to implement such a system he forwarded a letter from Oftel saying that such a system is not possible – but this is not true.

It may be impossible to alter the existing system to do this (although I should be very surprised if it were) but it is not impossible to design such a system quite cheaply. “Which?” should research the technical issues and press HMG for action.

John Wainwright says:
2 March 2015

It’s essential that:
1 – All callers be told they MUST show a number for return calls and stop hiding behind Withheld, Unavailable or International.
2 – UK companies using overseas call centres have to comply with the same rules as when calling from the UK.
3 – Same rules as above for SMS text messages.

Then we will be able to know who to complain about.

Ian says:
2 March 2015

You want to receive calls and texts that you can then complain about?

Most people simply want the calls to stop. A different approach is needed for that goal.

It need not be a number for return calls – there are good reasons why many callers cannot do this – but, as I pointed out above, a unique ID, which is not necessarily the callers actual phone number, allows simple complaints. If complaining is simple and has bad results for offending companies the number of calls will diminish dramatically.

We don’t get many nuisance calls but today had two. Both started with “I am not trying to sell you anything”. When I told them that we are registered with TPS they told me that since they began with this phrase it did not apply. When I then said I would report them they told me it did not matter – they were not contravening the rules. Any one know whether this is true?

On the few occasions that I have listened to callers that ‘are not trying to sell you anything’ that has proved to be false or they have been engaged in market research, where it is legal to make unsolicited calls subject to certain rules.

In another Conversation, we are discussing whether or not we trust companies. I don’t trust any company that feels the need to make an unsolicited phone call to me.

Rather than having more fines, there needs to be the threat that they will have their phone service removed for increasing periods if they continue to make unsolicited calls.

Debra Potter says:
4 March 2015

i get them on my landline and mobile and I live in France!

Poppy says:
4 March 2015

This has been a problem for years so why is the Govt only saying they’ll do something now they’re after votes in May?! And why is one of the worst offenders a company saying they’re surveying for Public Health England?! Also, I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve been told that companies like Virgin are knowingly letting these calls through as they make money from it. Needs investigating, as well as how companies can bypass Telephone Preference Service registered numbers. Auto diallers which work through numbers sequentially should be made illegal.

Some answers;-
(1) Yes there’s a general election coming
(2) Companies telling you about a public health survey just want to get your details and then sell those details on; of course, there is no such health survey. I simply tell the caller that all surveys are subject to a £50 fee, but sales calls are free.
(3) Virgin and other telephone providers cannot stop these calls.
(4) TPS doesn’t cover surveys; but selling your details on later is a breach of the rules.
(5) Auto diallers, the worst of the lot, simply ban them along with recorded messages.

A new one [for me anyway] yesterday: “Congratulations! You have been selected to win a prize. Press 2 to claim your prize and you will get a call back within 24 hours . . . ” I stopped the call without pressing any buttons. The notion that this isn’t part of a sales approach is unsustainable.

I suspect that pressing buttons would initiate a premium rate call.

Ian says:
6 March 2015

Re: “I suspect that pressing buttons would initiate a premium rate call.”

The telephone system does not work like that.

For any legislation to be effective it needs to make the organisation on whose behalf a call is being made responsible for any transgressions. This would get us away from the tendency to use agencies to make calls from overseas in order to escape legislation. Most of the calls that I get these days show up as International on my caller display.