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What’s being done in Scotland to reduce nuisance calls?

Nuisance calls

Scottish cities are still topping the table for nuisance calls in the UK, so what’s Which? doing about the problem?

How did you spend St Andrew’s Day this week? We spent it in Edinburgh for the inaugural meeting of the Scottish Nuisance Calls Commission – a group set up as a result of our campaign.

It was chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, Keith Brown MSP, who committed to making sure his government plays its part.

Our campaign

We launched our Scottish arm of the nuisance campaign a year ago, with news that Scottish people reported receiving more calls than others in the rest of the UK. In one month, 91% of Scottish respondents received a nuisance call on their landline, compared with 71% for the rest of the UK.


We recently published figures from our partnership with trueCall showing that Scottish cities are still topping the table for nuisance calls in the UK.

Between January 2013 and September 2016, Glasgow came top of the UK rankings, with 51.5% of all calls received on landlines classified as a nuisance. Edinburgh came second (47.8%) and Aberdeen fourth (45.6%).

The data also showed that not only is the problem more pronounced for those classed as ‘vulnerable’, but it has been getting worse over the past six months.

What’s the Scottish government doing?

We are aware that the Scottish government doesn’t have the powers to fix the problem entirely – not one agency does. This is why we are actively campaigning in Westminster to pull as many levers as possible.

But the Scottish government certainly has the power to influence and convene the relevant people together to find solutions to the problem – and this was perfectly demonstrated this week.

At the table were the usual faces – telephone companies, regulators, consumer groups and government (both UK and Scottish). We had a lively discussion and chewed over a number of things we could all do to empower and protect consumers.

We also talked about how we can provide guidance to businesses about proper codes of conduct and what technological solutions are out there.

The Commission will meet three times over the next six months, after which it will draw up an action plan. The Minister will keep the dialogue open with his counterpart in the UK government and ensure that similar action is taken there.

It may seem like baby steps, but we call this progress, and pressure from campaigners like you help make these things happen.

Do you live in one of these cities and feel like you’re bombarded more than most? How do you want the Commission to help you?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for the update, Eva.

Although I am very supportive of action being taken to put an end to nuisance calls in Scotland (and elsewhere), I am somewhat concerned about the reference to ‘our partnership with trueCall ‘ – a commercial company that makes call blocking equipment. I would be grateful if you would explain the nature of this partnership.

Member
Eva Groeneveld says:
5 December 2016

Hello wavechange, thanks for your response. Good to point this out, and I am happy to explain. We have been working with TrueCall, as one of the major call blocking technology suppliers in the UK to analyse the data they receive from their call blockers. They did a really interesting pilot scheme in Scotland in 2015 where they worked with local authorities and trading standards to install boxes into people’s homes, and have been collecting information about the call volumes and the call types they receive. They also have a good spread of boxes installed right across the UK. For us, this is really valuable information so that we can see the extent of the nuisance calls problem and highlight this to decision-makers. As you know, Which? doesn’t accept money from businesses – we like to maintain our editorial independence, so it is merely a partnership of sharing information.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Thanks for this information, Eva. I was not aware that local authorities and Trading Standards were working on the problem of nuisance calls.

My suggestion is that call blocking is provided at the exchange so that it can be updated as necessary and users able to select whichever options best suit their needs. Service providers already offer a variety of on-demand facilities to their customers. BT Call Minder is one example. Individual call blockers have demonstrated what is possible but it is not very efficient to have large numbers of customers install devices that will become outdated.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

@eva-groeneveld Perhaps Which? could provide a report on what was discussed at the convention? I am interested in hearing of practical solutions – or partial solutions – to this problem. It has already been talked about for a long time, and now is being talked about for another 6 months. I’d like to know where this talk is, or might be leading.

Is Truecall the only device manufacturer that can be consulted on nuisance calls, or are there others?

Profile photo of duncan lucas
Member

Truecall looks like British innovation launched on the “Dragon,s Den” by Peter Jones , it is not just a normal call-blocker but has a yearly prescription for call screening . i have had a CPR call-blocker for two years and i am happy with it , I don’t have a problem with Which advertising products for financial assistance or not as ,to me that is the modern way society is run in this country and the US , but there again I am not a member so I don’t count .I can see why it might aggrieve members but its up to them as to any position to take , I know now about the charitable status but there are plenty of those now “taking the money” in the UK without a blush in the charitable business so if you are going to criticise Which there is a long line of others in the running particularly the ones related to old-age . I am sorry Which I don’t have the same confidence as you in an outcome that will remarkably affect the amount of sales calls in Scotland so long as Westminster holds the power and Law on telecommunications , as I have said can you see Westminster saying to BT (Scotland ) yes block all those calls –for free but stopping English consumers doing the same ?-Wat Tyler would be rising in his grave and just think of voting time. Consider that Whitehall has just said to the FM you know where you can stick your statement to influence Brexit , judges or no judges. By the way CPR call-blocker has UK government backing as well as UK police malcolm they have a UK base .

Member

CPR is on the list of companies to not do business with, as published by TPS.

Member
Eva Groeneveld says:
5 December 2016

Hi malcomr, thanks for your interest. The Commission was convened by the Scottish Government, so they hold the reigns on the publishing of what was discussed. The Commission will meet three times over the next couple of months, and has committed to producing an Action Plan afterwards. It does feel like we’ve been discussing this a long time, but we have found that there is definitely no magic bullet to solving this problem! We need everyone on board, and on the same page. On your question of TrueCall, see my answer above to wavechange about why we worked with TrueCall. They are not the only call blocker on the market, and we have looked at and put others through the same lab assessments. From a policy and editorial perspective, though, the unique thing about TrueCall is that they capture information about call volumes and call types to the boxes they install, which enable a much closer look at the extent of the problem.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

@eva-groeneveld, thanks Eva. As a participant in the discussions could you ask the Scottish Government to provide a summary of, or a link to, the proceedings?

Member

Claims that “CPR” is “backed by the police” may be “misleading” or “deceptive”.

It appears that organisations can pay the police to evaluate whether a product or service they provide complies with the law and then use the scheme’s logo on their product.

To make any sort of claim about the police endorsing the functionality or usefulness of the product may appear to be going much further than the scheme intends.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

An initiative – SBD, or Secured by Design – was started by the police to certify products that gave particular levels of enhanced security – door locks and windows I think were early contenders. CPR and Truecall seem to be included. Details at http://www.securedbydesign.com/about-secured-by-design/

Profile photo of Eva Groeneveld
Member

We will certainly make the case! I am sure Which? will make sure that when something is published, we will let our supporters know

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

@eva-groeneveld, I thought I’d comtact the Scottish Government and received a very quick reply as follows: “The plan is to publish minutes of the meetings on our Nuisance Call Commission section on Gov.scot. However, the first set will only appear after they are signed off by members at the second meeting (scheduled for mid-January)”

Member

The key to solving nuisance calls is to ban the activity.

The regulators who regulate the various problem sectors have a direct relationship with the companies they regulate. It is within their powers to ban the use of the telephone for marketing purposes.

Discussion about “consent” to “UNsolicited calls” is a distraction from the real issue.

The ICO has limited powers. The penalties it issues are not allowed to cause financial distress to the company the action is taken against. On the other hand, individual sector regulators have the power to suspend or remove licenses to trade. In some cases they can do so while while an investigation is carried out, not have to wait until the final conclusions have been reached.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Such a ban would have a partial effect [so long as it is enforceable], but a lot of nuisance calls are outside and beyond any UK regulatory authority so we also need an answer to that problem.

Member

Any such ban on use of the telephone for marketing purposes would also cover the use of leads by UK companies that were generated by marketing calls made from abroad.

It would also stop UK companies from employing overseas agents to make marketing calls in the first place.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

Hi all, I thought you’d be interested to hear that the second meeting of the Nuisance Calls Commission, set up by the Scottish Government in response to our campaign, occurs today:

Economy Secretary Keith Brown will chair the second meeting of the Nuisance Calls Commission on Wednesday which will focus on empowering and supporting companies that want to do the right thing whilst finding effective ways to tackle persistently offending companies or individuals. This follows a Which? Report that found Scotland receives a higher number of nuisance calls compared to the rest of the UK. Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Brown said:

“I set up the Nuisance Calls Commission to tackle the growing problem of Nuisance Calls which are disproportionately affecting Scotland with three of our main cities receiving the highest level of calls within the top five in the UK. By bringing together key stakeholders the Nuisance Calls Commission seeks to develop a range of effective ways to protect consumers and reduce the impact of unwanted calls.

“The Scottish Government is determined to make the most of our new consumer powers to take positive steps to reduce the impact nuisance calls have on the lives of people in Scotland. However, with regulation of nuisance calls and texts reserved to the UK Government, I once again appeal to them to recognise the severity of this problem and to prioritise this by working closely with my officials to find solutions to this epidemic. Too many people are being plagued by nuisance calls in Scotland and enough is enough. I will be bringing forward an joint action plan outlining the Commission’s proposals and progress made prior to summer recess.”

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Is not BT’s initiative part of the solution/ Not mentioned in this statement.