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Taking nuisance calls campaign to Scottish Parliament

Today, we took the nuisance calls campaign to the Scottish Parliament. We talked to MSPs about the problem, shared your concerns, and outlined some of our solutions.

This morning, we released results from our survey that clearly showed that a considerable number of you want government action on nuisance calls.

A whopping 85% of those surveyed last November want action by the Scottish Government, and a similar level (87%) also want action at UK level.

With a clear mandate for action, today was a good day to reiterate our call on the Scottish Government to take this opportunity to set the trend and outline plans to tackle nuisance calls.

A heated debate

The Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) told us about their packed mailbags full up with frustration about nuisance calls, their concern that the problem seemed to be growing, and their annoyance with the slow rate of progress.

Many MSPs also recounted stories of how their own Parliamentary and constituency phone lines get clogged up with automated nuisance calls.

Graeme Day MSP
Graeme Day MSP,
photo by Colin Hattersley

The host of today’s event, Graeme Dey MSP, from Angus South, told us:

‘My support for this campaign stems both from personal experience of the menace that is nuisance calls and the impact these have on constituents. In my opinion the situation is getting worse rather than better.

‘Some of the perpetrators of these calls are becoming increasingly aggressive in their approach. Something has to be done. That will require cross governmental co-operation between Scotland and the UK and indeed involving the wider EU.’

Time for action

While you told us that it’s time for government action, our research also showed some interesting findings towards businesses who break the rules. Nine in ten people want to see the director of a company held personally accountable and fined if the company makes calls without the necessary permission.

Scottish energy company SSE have already publicly committed to tackling nuisance calls, but we need more businesses to step forward. The Scottish Government already has a Scottish Business Pledge, bringing together businesses that practice good conduct, so why not similar for nuisance calls?

To date the Scottish Government hasn’t formally responded to our campaign or pledged publicly to tackle the problem, but have assured us that they’re looking into whether there is a role for the Scottish Government in addressing this growing problem. We can only hope that this pursuit has a sense of immediacy to it, if you agree that more needs to be done then sign our petition today.

So what are your thoughts on nuisance calls – is it time for action from government, businesses, or both? Are you one of the 85% who think government can do more to fix this problem?


If there is a pause after you pick up the phone it’s a nuisance call, so hang up. It still brings you to the phone though. Another ploy is to ignore it and then dial 1471. If it’s someone you know you’ll get their number; if it’s a nuisance call they don’t leave their number. I am told that there is a number you can dial to stop these calls, but I don’t know it. Let’s hope the government finds a solution.

Numerous cold calls received most days` – reason enough to drive me out of Scotland; arranging to live back in England where there is far less of this nuisance. Telephone Preference forget it as it`s ineffective.

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Norman says:
1 February 2016

When working I would often come home to find one or two calls on my answering machine. However I retired in January and am appalled at the number of calls I was probably getting who as soon as the answering machine cuts in hang up so they were never recorded. This can be 6-10 per day I am aware of and yes I am not in all the time, and I am on telephone preference.

I bought a BT 8500 Advanced Call Blocker and have never looked back,I have not had even one
rubbish call,I know they are trying to get through as their number still registers on the call log
but it comes up as being blocked which suits us as we used to be bothered every day with these
useless calls,it was not even expensive and certainly well worth the money we did pay.

I am fed up to the back teeth receiving all these bogus calls its about time the government stepped in and do something about it

I do hope Scotland is successful in bringing about change because we have not done very well in England. I’m glad that Which? is remembering that Scotland exists.

My answer to nuisance calls remains to make it illegal for companies to call us unless we have opted-in to receive marketing calls.

The penalty for making nuisance calls should be to suspend a company’s phone service for increasing lengths of time until they stop making nuisance calls, not waiting until they have made thousands and possibly issue a fine.

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I don’t know about faith but we – and many others – see the need for legislation. Unfortunately, the government of this country seems to be paying more attention to industry than its citizens. Which? has put a great deal of effort into its campaign to stop nuisance calls but until we have legislation to make them illegal without our consent the problem will drag on.

Wavechange, how do you stop companies lying and saying you opted in? How do you stop them pretending they are genuine marketing or charity calls? How do you stop spoofed numbers? How do you protect vulnerable people?

When you get one of these calls, you only have the word of the complete stranger at the other end of the phone. You have no idea if they are telling you truth or lies.

I get called from mobile phone companies trying to get me to take out a new contract. They know I am with o2, say they are from o2, but they are lying and if I believed them, could find myself in a contract with a company I had no intention of joining. I believed the first person who called me and as it sounded a very good deal and said I would check out the phone they were offering me and the person on the other end said they would call back the next day. If I had decided to take up the offer I would have gone into an o2 store NOT do it over the phone. I checked the phone number I was called from and it was from another company. I did question the person the following day and they admitted they were not from o2 but calling on behalf of o2, still a lie.

I gave an example in the previous convo of a lady saying she was doing market research to improve services in my area. She was lying as the questions had nothing to do with services in my area.

As long as cold calling is permitted, scammers will manipulate the system to continue with nuisance calling. The only reason they call you is to get money out of you one way or another and these convos give too many examples of people who have been conned. You should never enter into a contract with a complete stranger on the other end of a phone no matter how convincing they sound. And they are getting more convincing as they “follow” the rules.

It’s vulnerable people that concern me most, Alfa. I am cautious and have never bought any product or service as a result of a phone call. Even when I receive a call from a company I use, I tell them I will call back after looking up the number.

If we have to opt-in to receiving marketing calls rather than opt-out via TPS, I doubt that many would do this. If most of the calls were illegal then the government could be forced to act. All calls are logged, so if BT was required to confirm that an illegal call was made to a domestic number, action could be taken against the relevant companies. I understand that BT knows the number of the caller even if our caller display shows that it has been withheld or gives a false number.

I want to see market research by phone banned. Even though it is currently legal, the calls are still nuisance calls, and as you have pointed out, marketing calls are often introduced as market research. I have no problem with participating in telephone market research as long as I can make the the call at a time convenient to me.

It would be helpful if Which? had a campaign advising us not to buy goods or services via the phone unless we have made the call.

Wavechange, can you give some examples of companies you would like to opt in to receive calls from?

Examples would be companies that provide me with goods and services (so that I have the opportunity to provide constructive criticism and suggestions) and companies that sell products or services relevant to my hobby interests.

Wavechange, your examples can easily be achieved with emails, texts or even snail mail that are not intrusive.

Can you say all you would like to say about goods and services when you are put on the spot with an unexpected phone call? What is wrong with a free reply to a text or email if you would like a follow-up call for a service? At least you would be expecting it.

I email, write or phone companies when I have something to say to them. I will even sometimes give them my phone number to call me back but I don’t want them calling me unless there is a very good reason like a problem with an order or delivery or appointment.

I am on a lot of emailing lists. Many I have not signed up for but I don’t have a problem with them as they get directed to my junk folder and I can handle them at a time convenient to me and most of them probably get mass deleted anyway.

There is a big difference between a hobby shop phoning you and saying are you still interested in something and the big business of buying and selling of personal data that leads to all the nuisance calls we get where opting in or out just won’t work.

Alfa – I am specifically referring to calls that I have initiated.

I am opposed to companies contacting me by phone unless there is an urgent need to do so. It would make sense for a bank or credit card company to phone me if they suspected illegal activity on my account and needed to let me know as soon as possible. That has not happened but if it did, I would thank the caller and call the company after looking up the number.

As you say, we can make input via email. I am not presently on few mailing lists because I’m concerned that my contact details could be passed on to other ‘carefully selected’ companies.

I always make sure other ‘carefully selected’ companies is not activated.

I do think those carefully selected companies should be named though so you can choose which ones you would like to hear from. i.e. John Lewis would name Waitrose, their Insurance, etc.

This has worked well for me. I also make a point that I do not want to receive marketing calls from the company itself. Vodafone used to pester me and I said that I would leave them if I received one more call, which did the trick. It is worth reminding companies of your marketing preferences when renewing insurances and contracts because these may return to the default settings.

I’m going to wade in here……………Having ran a business I can understand B to B calls but I can safely say that in 20 odd years I have not had a call that interested me…………..If I want glazing,,I’ll phone a couple of local businesses that make pvc windows….If I want a new phone contract which has only been twice in many years I’ll go find one
I’m kinda of the opinion that if I had talked to even 20% of the callers it would have cost me money and also time…………..I have plenty of time but I’d rather be at something constructive even if it takes all day………..I dont have plenty of money so why spend or rubbish I wasnt looking for

No ban all cold calls………..Do we stand and chat to cold callers at our door,,,,,,,no we dont,,,,,,,,,,we try and get rid of them as well mannered as we can and a quickly as we can to the extent that door to door calls are near to zero round here now

I want our phones to go back to our phone not something that everyone from Belfast to Sydney has access to night and day………………Our phone is for our use………….Its we that pay for our phone…………..we should get to choose……………who??????

Doorstep cold calling is now illegal except for charities and religious groups I believe.

Doesn’t stop people leaving bags on your doorstep for unwanted goods calling themselves charities though but at least you can ignore them and you get a free bag !!!

But I completely agree with you that our phones should be for our use and if we want a service, we should be the ones to instigate it.

Precisely. I am not going to buy anything from anyone who phones me or calls at the door. There are not many doorstep salesmen these days but I politely get rid of them.

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Here’s one for Duncan
Check out sale of Nuclear Bunker in Ballymena only finished in 1990………….Only for the BBC we would not have known it existed……………How do you build this without the nosey folk knowing what it is…………..how much did that cost to keep this quiet……………………..asking price £575,000……………someone or should we say we paid a h***l of lot more to put 300 odd people whom many of couldn’t grow a potato while those that could will be cooked along with much of the land around them…………

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Presumably, most people have an ansa-phone. Solution is to ignore all calls. If important, caller will leave a message. Alternatively, leave caller with something along these lines. ” If this is a cold call or of something of no interest to me, b****r off (go away) & stop wasting your & my time”.
Insert another phrase should you wish but make sure that it is to the point.

This is my sad commentary on the issue , i no longer answer my phone, i wait to see what message is left if any, on most occasions the call stops 4 words into my voice mail message .. I sometimes get upto 7 or 8 calls a day including Sundays , There must be something that can be done about this nasty intrusion into our personal lives

To Keith Whyte:-
To reiterate my previous post, nasty intrusive call deserve a nasty reply.
However, if your at a loose end, have some fun. Keep them going foras long as possible, telling them all sorts of rubbish in answer to their questions then end by letting them know it’s all tripe. My personal record is 20 minutes to a former colonial trying to arrange a mobile phone contract . Apart from having great difficulty understanding his accent, it helped to spin it out. His last question was ” How much do you spend a month on calls/texts”. “About £2-£4” was my reply.
He cut off.
Anyway, it was a rainy day!!

Robert Williamson says:
2 February 2016

Do you really expect that lazy shower at Holyrood to do anything for the people who elect them and pay their salaries. That bunch in Holyrood are only are only interested in two things : Lining their own pockets ; and Independence despite having lost the referendum.

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My phone usually rings several times per day with the number withheld and usually no one on the other end if I pick up – two so far at 9.27am. That type of nuisance call must be taken into account.

ferdie says:
2 February 2016

please do something it has become unbearable and to top it off we get the microsoft scam call every day Also have caller details on our phone but receive unknown callers and private calls which are scammers

it would be helpful if it was possible to block phone calls from india,the phone companies could do this if they wanted to,that would cut out a substantial number of pest calls at a stroke.

We keep discussing whether the Scottish Parliament or the UK Parliament should be passing legislation, and we keep wondering whether there is some magic apparatus that can be put in the telephone exchange that could tell whether an incoming phone call was going to be a nuisance, but what is Ofcom doing about all this? We seem to be letting them off the hook. Ofcom probably has all the powers needed to deal a massive blow to the junk calls nuisance. Obviously, the telecoms industry is going to drag its feet because it is making a fortune out of selling call-blocking technology such is the scale of the problem and the public’s demand for relief.

It is widely acknowledged that the Telephone Preference Service can easily be worked-around by determined marketing operators but it is nevertheless a very good first step in terms of containing the nuisance. Although a call-blocker requires some expenditure plus a certain amount of application to get it programmed and working the way you want it to, it seems to me to be the most worthwhile investment that people can make in regaining their lives. I would like to see local voluntary organisations taking on board the provision and setting-up of call-blockers in the homes of vulnerable people whereby those who can would make a contribution but those who can’t would have the equipment on loan free of charge. Certainly if we were receiving more than one nuisance call a week we would get a call-blocker.

I am convinced that anything the government forced telecom companies to do as a technological fix would result in higher line rentals.

You are right in near everything……………TPS,,,,,,,,,,,,,,better known to some as a “throttle position sensor”……..Maybe that is a better term for the phone call throttle also!!!!!!!!!!!

Charities,,,John????,,,,,,,,,,,,,,streets full of them everywhere
Here three I know of are operated by former car salesmen and they have volunteers at no wages and shops with no rates yet they themselves all drive high end German cars…………..perfectly legal and above board apparently

It is just not the phone industry that has changed to take advantage of everyone it seems
Gone are the days when someone charitable collected a load of stuff and headed off east to an orphanage or similar…………..and in at least one case a world renowned world champion

DeeKay – I wasn’t intending to open up a debate about charities, and I specifically used the phrase “voluntary organisations” because there are thousands of perfectly respectable, sincere and dedicated organisations across the land that don’t run shops or beg for money but nonetheless do exceedingly good work to help vulnerable people.

Sorry,,,,,,,,,,,,,I’ll not touch on that one again

For years I have hoped that Which? would push for a review of the effectiveness of Ofcom (and Ofgem).

It concerns me that many of us have been subjected to nuisance calls for years, yet most companies have done this without penalty, even when numbers are registered with the TPS. I believe that BT should be providing technical support that will help identify the culprits rather than profiting from the sale of call blocking devices to the victims. 🙁

Looking at the terms and conditions for private telephone services, BT etc can withdraw their service if we misuse our phone. I have repeatedly suggested that an effective penalty for making nuisance calls could be to deprive a company of its phone service for a suitable period. Perhaps this could be done without new legislation.

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I apologise if you have told me this before, Duncan. As you say, the government is unwilling to offend business, so I am not optimistic that we will get rid of nuisance calls if legislation is the only effective solution.

As we now have two co-opted members who worked for Ofcom as Trustees I suggest you write and ask the question about effectiveness!

My gut feeling is that I am not keen on Council becoming an alternative home for Quango members. Did you vote wavechange?

I think I will stick to orthodox channels. Anyway, I don’t think you were a candidate this time. 🙂

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I`M A SENSIBLE SORT BUT THESE CALLS CRACK ME UP! I`VE HAD AS MANY AS 8 IN ONE DAY. Why do I answer them? Because I know some folk with witheld numbers. Now I`m taking the Phone off the hook and putting it right back. Otherwise it can ring up to 14 times. IT`S A CRIME!

I have bought a call blocker phoned and got the BT preference calls free for a year that was 3 months ago and since then have nevere had a cold call having prviously suffered up to 8 in a day, sorted.

Colin says:
3 February 2016

Good for you, but people shouldn’t have to pay extra to stop harassment by telepests.
Virtually all nuisance calls are made over BT networks, and instead of working with Ofcom & ICO to stop the problem at source, BT seems to be more interested in making money by selling call-blocking handsets to its long-suffering customers.

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Aggie says:
4 February 2016

Had 3 calls this morning from 8.30. 1. With held 2. International 3. Out of area all no doubt about ‘fixing’ my computer. Considering the telephone that blocks these calls just haven’t got round to it. If it is not scams it is uninvited sales. A real pain.

I’ve tried several times to report nuisance calls using your reporting tool, but this is no longer working. I have used it successfully in the past – is the service no longer available ?

Hi Esther, we’re not aware of any problems but I’ll take a look into this for you. Thanks for letting us know

Hi all, I just wanted to make you aware of the following. The new Scottish Government is today hosting its first nuisance calls summit, held in response to our ‘Calling Time on Nuisance Calls in Scotland’ campaign.

Held in Edinburgh today, the Scottish Government’s summit will bring together industry bodies and consumer groups to propose next steps for tackling nuisance calls. Our director of policy and campaigns, Alex Neill, will be attending along with Keith Brown, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.

Alex Neill said:

‘This summit is a major opportunity for businesses, regulators and the Scottish Government to make a difference by jointly committing to take action against this everyday menace.’

Keith Brown MSP said:

‘Nuisance calls are simply unacceptable and the Scottish Government takes this issue extremely seriously. We will use our new consumer powers as a catalyst to protect Scots from the blight of these unwelcome calls.

‘The summit is a key way to guide our work and brings together experts from regulators, consumer groups and industry who will work together to find practical ways of empowering and protecting consumers, as well as supporting businesses to be models of best practice.’


Thanks for your support for our campaign – you helped make this happen 🙂

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