/ Technology

Win! Nuisance calls bosses will be hit with big fines

New laws come into place today to make company directors accountable for plaguing people with nuisance calls. How soon could the Information Commissioner’s Office use their new powers?

Most people you talk to can share a frustrating story about nuisance calls and spam texts. We share that pain. In fact, we’ve been campaigning for five years to put a stop to the problem.

We were pleased that in 2015 the UK Government reduced the legal threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to act and issue fines of up to £500,000 to companies that were found to be breaching the law relating to nuisance calls.

But bosses have still been getting away with it – that’s until today.

Making bosses accountable

The first recommendation of Which?’s taskforce report for the UK Government, published in 2014, was to consider introducing legislation to enable board-level executives to be held accountable for the actions of their company.

Companies that unlawfully make unsolicited marketing communications by phone or text message can be fined by the ICO. However, enforcement action can only be taken against the company, rather than an individual company director.

In some cases, rogue directors are able to avoid the fines by closing one company and starting up another with a new name, known as phoenixing, to continue their activity.

After many years working on this, new legislation comes into place today that will change that. The ICO will now have the power to issue fines directly to the directors of these companies, as well as to the companies themselves.

This is a great win for Which? and the half a million people who have supported us in our campaign.

Fighting for consumers

Good progress has been made in this issue, with the ICO figures estimating that the number of nuisance calls have been falling. But we know they still exist, and we think that making the individuals responsible will continue to reduce the number of these rogue operations in existence.

This is of course just one tool in the box in ending nuisance calls, and should be used in conjunction with the others available, but we’re keen to see the ICO swiftly use these new powers to demonstrate that there will be no escape from tough action.

Do you think today’s new law will reduce the number of nuisance calls being made in the UK? How quickly do you want to see the ICO act? Do you have any tips for avoiding cold callers?


I installed Talk Talks Talk Safe several months ago and I have not had ONE nuisance call since. It is excellent. Now how do I stop these calls to my mobile? The most common calls I get are from an 0161 number.

When I get calls on my mobile I add them to my blocked caller list. For iPhones I get the option to block a caller when I create a new contact; I imagine Androids and other phone swill have a similar function.

good luck!

David Pope says:
19 December 2018

I don’t know about Android but on my iphone you can block numbers by adding them to your contacts & then opting to block them. Seems to work ok. Or you could try an app such as the imaginatively named Call Blocker by unknownphone.com which has a basic free setting detecting 300 known dangerous numbers with the option to block more numbers for free at a limited rate per week or a more advanced option of 2000 known troublesome numbers for a cost of £4.99 for 3 months. I just use the free setting myself. Might be worth a look?

Iain, I block them too but they just keep calling from different numbers. I also ask them to take me off their list and not call again but they keep calling.

anthony postin says:
20 December 2018

Yes Janice that is what happens to me to.I can`t see any way round this.

Blocking individual numbers is a fools errand as the scammers spoof the CLI “presentation number” and present a different number each time they call. The only effective approach is that adopted by trueCall where callers from all unknown numbers must complete a verbal challenge before your phone will ring. Scammers and nuisance callers simply hang up and your phone remains silent.

I get calls and have found that if you listen to what they are asking and then think 1 step ahead of them that will stop them ringing. Utimately they want to either sell you something or make money from your experiences, thats why they’re fishing to see if you have had a car accident. If they ask are you the homeowner, even if you are, say No, I rent my property, that will them deem you useless to them because most things they sell will mean you taking a loan out that is secured on your property. If they say you’ve had an accident, just say no I stopped driving a few years ago as my eyesight has deteriorated (or something, anything). That way, if they think you have no assets, and you no longer drive, etc, they will stop calling you. Its when people hang up, they will almost certainly ring you again, afterall they want something from you and until they know their wasting your time they will continue to hound you. I do this and my calls are less and less these days, so it does work, try it and see for yourself. .

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Call Blocker is absolutely brilliant. We’ve had it for just over a year now and it’s so easy to use, either directly on the base by pressing the big red button or entering a quick code on your handset. Unfortunately a lot of firms are now showing as being ‘local’ in order to get you to answer their call when in fact they’re often not even in the UK. I regularly get ‘local’ calls which the base set shows as being from Dubai, the Maldives and Somalia, among others – they’re SO annoying. Even if they are UK based I’m told it’s perfectly legal to disguise your number as being a ‘local’ one, so perhaps this is something else that Which could look at getting stopped, at least from UK companies.

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Duncan – reading C.Patison’s comment again I note that his philosophy depends on telling untruths to people on the phone. Does that sit comfortably with the teachings of Zen?

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I don’t have any qualms about lying to scammers.

After all, isn’t it more polite to “speak their language” when conversing with them?

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I have Talk Talk call barring but I get scam calls from Talk Talk only from, 0128951456, 10284142698, 10289295735, 01287667137, 01280557503 telephone company is issuing these numbers so fine them as well.

My biggest source of nuisance calls come from Talk Talk scammers the telephone companies that are supplying them with 018 numbers should be fined

We shouldnt be getting the calls in the first place
So how do we report these people or companys

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Many thanks for that tip Athlyn! I’ve now included the new Call Safe in my package.

For those TT customers who don’t yet know, just dial 1472 to get the automated message and press 1 to confirm and that’s it.

The text in the TT confirmation email, says:
“Say hello to CallSafe – your new privacy feature
CallSafe is now protecting you from unwanted calls. Your home phone will screen all unfamiliar phone numbers and block any unwanted callers, so you only speak to the people that matter. Manage your blocked and approved lists by dialling 1472 or in My Account. Any numbers you’ve recently called have been added to your CallSafe approved list and any numbers you’ve blocked using the Last Caller Barring privacy feature have been automatically transferred over to your CallSafe blocked list. If you’d like extra help with CallSafe, please visit our FAQ page. We hope you enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with your new privacy feature.”

A big Thank you to TalkTalk! – let’s hope other providers are or soon will be offering the same to their subscribers…

I think this is great news for us. I have noticed a great reduction in the amount of nuisance calls I receive since I started reporting them on Which website. In fact I don’t think I have had one for two weeks. yipee

I switched from TalkTalk because of the huge numbers of nuisance/fraudulent calls I was receiving. Unfortunately my new phone provider gave me the number of someone who’d previously been a TalkTalk customer as well – so now I receive calls intended for her. At least the criminals don’t have my account details, as they did when I was with TalkTalk. Most of the calls come from abroad, even if a UK number comes up – so Which’s campaign won’t have much effect. And yes, I do bar calls – must have a couple of hundred barred numbers stored in the system – but it doesn’t stop the criminals getting through.

If you had remained a TalkTalk customer you could have activated the free Call Safe service. This emulates the features of trueCall but is built into the telephone network itself. All unknown callers must complete a verbal challenge before your phone will ring. Scammers and nuisance callers simply hang up and your phone remains silent. Sky has a similar system, called Sky Shield.

These are far superior to BT Call Protect which has a number of serious flaws.

E Slater says:
19 December 2018

Many calls I get don’t let the phone ring long enough to engage the answer machine however I have a list of the last 10 or so calls and if I don’t recognise it I check it on https://who-called.co.uk and you can see others who have had the calls and find out who it may be.

I then go to https://ico.org.uk/ and make a complaint about the call.

Only by doing this will we see firms being fined and this may help to stop them.

By the way if it is do to with someone trying to get you to use your computer or perhaps fake stuff from HMRC you can contact Action Fraud.

Don’t click on email links. If you do have an account, go to their website via a new tab.

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John Brown says:
19 December 2018

I bought a wee call blocker from Amazon a few years ago – Easy to use and really works. About £30

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How come the same list of callers relentlessly call me Every 4 weeks about car insurance when i have signed no contact agreements with all comparison sights. someone is making money flogging my number .Despite claims that if you block numbers this will not happen 1st foreign nos now uk again its worse than ever. 0161 nos and 01273 are the worst up to 6 times a day each.

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Ramesh Kapoor says:
20 December 2018

If I get a call on my Mobile, I can block it for good, but Land line it is difficult.
The landline provider asks you so many questions and by the time you finish, you have forgotten the number you want to Block.
These cold calls people don’t care about what time they ring Morning, evening.

sometimes you can’t mobile, the leave the massages and don’t but silent for a long time and I have to delete them. Wasting my time and cost the money.
I wish they go away and leave us alone.

I got onto a free blocker service on the internet called TPS. The only number/s you have to enter are the number/s of the phones you want to be free of calls. Works quite well, I’ve gone from a high of 25-30 calls a day to one or two a week.

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Sounds interesting I will look into TPS

Gerry says:
20 December 2018

Unfortunately many organisations use the TPS as a ‘suckers list’ of vulnerable people that they can exploit, so it’s doubtful whether it works.

Given that sales calls from telemarketers are likely to decline now that their directors are personally liable for fines, it’s quite likely that registering with the TPS will actually INCREASE the number of calls that you receive from fraudsters !

Several years ago I read that those registered with TPS receive more nuisance calls than those that are not registered, but that’s probably because you are more likely to register if you have a problem with calls.

It’s crazy that it is still legal for anyone to make unsolicited calls for the purpose of marketing or market research.

You are so lucky Brian – I’ve never had any luck with TPS, despite being registered for over 15 years and with three different landline numbers.

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I am still getting calls trying to sell me things even though I am on the telephone preference register. Firms are supposed to check if you are registered but many don’t bother so I am still being pestered.

This is good news. As the article says calls must be reported or no action can be taken. How do we report them please? Also any tips on finding out details about the company – frequently the telephone number is withheld or false.

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Amanda says:
20 December 2018

I’ve been receiving around three cold calls a day, I block them all but they slightly change a digit in the number and call again (or leave an automated voicemail, which they can do on my mobile even if blocked). I’ve started reporting them to the ICO now but their report form is playing up a bit.

What about calls from outside of the UK. Or, calls that display a number but when called back say “this number has not been recognised”

Brian, I think those numbers should be reported, red flagged and then blocked at the exchange.

That way a few might still receive scam calls from them, but hopefully they’d soon be blocked.

But, there is not reason in principle why calls coming from spoofed fake numbers could not be automatically authenticated and blocked when that failed.

What do you do if the person calling does not give a number, so you cannot block it! and what about the caller who hangs up as soon as you answer, again no number left. I take an intelligent guess these calls are from the same company. Sometimes these Bas****s phone 7.30 am.

I am 75 yrs old and I used to get about 10 scam calls a day on my landline and mobile phone.
I even reported this matter to TPS several times – what a total waste of time!
Then I reported to Which? organisation, and since then scam and nuisance calls have reduced drastically.
Many thanks to the Consumer Council to act quickly.

I have caller display on my phones if a number appears that we do not recognise then we don’t answer like wise private numbers or out of area numbers we don’t answer if it is someone that wants to get hold of us they leave a message and if we hear that we answer. Seems to work ok, tried the Talk Talk call blocker but some of our friends thought that they had been cut off and rang off, stopped the odd calls just too many of them.

Hi I am still getting cold callers also timeshare enquiry. Both uk based and outside countries. Blocked as many as I can even changed my phone number. Even had wanting contact with my husband saying they had just been speaking to him the other day that he was going to buy their product my reply was go to the other side because he”s dead!!!!? 11 years ago.

I am delighted Which has succeeded and same on the law and makers for taking its time to protect this country and the protection of its citizens.
It is so steeped on old pompous ways than being aware of what is happening in this country and the world.

Which you have won this law changing brilliant well done.

Many more issues of importance?

But I am with you for sure.

I think that the only way to stop these calls is to bring in legislation to make it illegal for companies to sell/share our information. I thought the data protection act would stop it, but someone is still making big money from selling on our information. This is OUR personal property, no one should be allowed to steal it and sell it on to anyone.

I have been plagued by calls saying that I will lose my BT internet connection. The calls pretend that they’re from BT and come from a different number each time and sometimes apparently from an International number. Sometimes there are several in one day, sometimes early and always intrusive. The Telephone Preference Service doesn’t stop them. Depending on my mood, I just ring off, or I play them along by acting dumb. Here’s a solid bit of information. They ask a list of questions like “Do you use Facebook?” “Do you use email?” and most importantly “Do you use Internet Banking?” Nah never have (I do). “What, you don’t use Internet Banking?” No, never have never will. And they immediately ring off. That tells you all you need to know. They were about to swindle you out of your money. Why must we have to receive these calls? Why can’t they be stopped?

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TPS dissuades legimate companies from calling you for marketing purposes.

TPS has no effect on calls that are scams nor should it. These require a completely different approach.

TPS dissuades legitimate companies from calling you for marketing purposes.

TPS has no effect on calls that are scams, nor should it. These require a completely different approach.

I don’t see why any company or other organisation should be allowed to disturb me with a phone call and even if I am a customer, there needs to be a very good reason for calling unless I have opted-in. Others are welcome, but I expect that most people do not want to receive unsolicited calls.

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We’ve also been getting unsolicited calls for over a year now, numbering in the hundreds. I use the ‘14258’ number with TalkTalk to block them, but others here have said, these companies are able to work around similar such methods.

What I’d like to know, is who or where do the monies fined go to when there are successful prosecutions? How about the victims and if so why should the monies recovered not go to reducing the fees paid by phone subscribers? Perhaps their respective phone companies would then become more proactive to protect their subscibers…? Surely our phone Co’s have lists of all the cold-calling numbers used, which we’ve blocked??

Perhaps there also ought to be greater publicity given to such cases throughout the media – News/ documentaries etc. to show the legal consequences of such ‘injury’ to those being harrassed?

When I inform a caller is making an unsolicited call and could be subject to prosecution, we then get further calls where the same people call again but don’t answer or speak (apparently out of spite) – this is definitely harrassment and therefore illegal.

Our own landline number is unlisted and our is address also off the local council’s edited electoral role, as we don’t need or want contact from such companies.

These companies however, have no conscience about checking for these databases, as they would then obviously have to avoid contacting those not on their lists thus reducing their potential income, not to mention the time (money/wages) spent on ‘cleaning’ their data. I would suggest referencing these should be made a legal requirement and so tighten the noose on the cold callers.

One of the biggest causes of this being sidestepped, is the database being sold on without the opted-out folks’ details being removed – cold calling companies operate ‘campaigns’, by using databases of callees and their addresses, which are sold on and obviously the more names and numbers included, the higher the price paid…

As it all revolves around money, data cleaning is left up to the next recipient(s)/ purchasers of the databases when they are sold on. (I once had to work in data-entry in such an environment until the co. closed down.) This data-cleaning process however, should ba made a legal requirement – and any single number contacted which is not on the list, should result in the contacting company concerned being prosecuted by default.
Remember too: dialling an 0800 number means they are going to capture your number used to dial theirs, thus offsetting their cost of making it ‘free’ to use. Rest assured, they will sell such details on if you make them available, opting-out notwithstanding, since money is too much of a motivator for those with little or no conscience.

This whole ‘wild west’ scenario must end – and we have had the technology from the start to make it so.

It is now high time for zero tolerance and I look forward to the day when class action lawsuits against such companies will regularly prove successful with the compensation awarded going directly to those victims so negatively impacted.

The government (along with Which? for that matter) supports the notion that businesses can make cold calls. This explains why there is still no actual ban on cold calling, merely numerous tweks to wooly and demonstrably ineffective legisation.