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Nuisance calls and texts: we’re dialling up the pressure

Dialling on smartphone

I’ve just come out of a meeting with regulators, industry and government reps to discuss nuisance calls and texts – and I took you all with me. It was my chance to urge them all to take action.

Following on from the launch of our campaign, Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts, we’ve been taking note of the hundreds of comments you’ve left here on Which? Conversation.

It’s our second most popular post Conversation and more than 24,000 of you have voted saying you’re fed up with nuisance calls and texts.

Representing your views on nuisance calls and texts

So at today’s meeting, hosted by Ed Vaizey MP, I spoke on your behalf. Most in the meeting were all too familiar with the problem. As so many of you have made clear, unsolicited calls are more than just a nuisance – they’re also stopping you from from receiving calls about work, your family and even hospital appointments. So many of your comments reflect the seriousness of this problem, such as Caroline’s:

‘I have been off work for two weeks due to [the] fact that my father died and my mother is seriously ill. Every day I receive cold calls regarding PPI despite being ex-directory. This is very distressing. I dive to my phone every time it rings in case it is my mother needing help. I find it disgraceful that these people feel that they have the right to bombard me with calls everyday.’

And Chloe’s:

‘I’ve reached screaming point over automated phone calls. I am self employed and must answer the phone. Often there’s nobody on the line when I’ve run the length of my cottage and hurdled over the cats to pick up.’

Then there’s David’s views on the regulators:

‘The regulatory system does not work. ICO, Ofcom and TPS just play pass the parcel according to the type of call – what sensible person would think that voice, silent, or automated calls should be dealt with in three different ways?’

Two months to go…

You may remember that to launch our campaign, we asked the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Ofcom, the Ministry of Justice and the Office of Fair Trading to set up a joint taskforce within three months to crackdown on nuisance calls and texts.

One month has already passed. Some of the regulators have publicly said that they’re investigating complaints and are serious in taking action against companies that break rules. But we still believe we need a joint taskforce that starts by focusing on targeting PPI and personal injury nuisance calls and texts. According to what you’ve told us, these are the industries you’re most likely to be bothered by, and we think this could be the key to getting action, now.

I urged the regulators to use the powers available to them. For example, the ICO has the power to investigate where nuisance callers get your details from. It’s also very complicated to complain about nuisance calls and texts, so the regulators agreed that they will work with us at Which? to make it easier to complain or register your number to block cold calls.

So, two months to go until our deadline. I’ll keep putting pressure on the regulators and sharing your comments with them. Then it’s over to you. You will be the ones to decide whether you think the regulators’ action has been good enough. In the meantime, keep in touch. Your experiences are key to us hanging up on nuisance calls and texts once and for all.

Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts?

Yes (100%, 30,130 Votes)

No (0%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 30,221

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Sadly leaving anything to the existing regulators who have failed the end user so badly will probably result in nothing much. They’ve collectively done too little for too long. Many nuisance calls I get now don’t even bother to hide their numbers, or use a new number just 1 or 2 higher than the number they called on a couple of days earlier.

Making it easier to report nuisance calls must be their top priority and must include the ability to enter a code into the phone either during or immediately after getting such a call. Having websites won’t help people with no computer access. And having half a dozen different places to report the varied types of call doesn’t help us the end user either. We need to be able to report a nuisance call and for the system to route it to the correct waste of space regulator.

But having said all that I wish you all the luck in the world.


I do not understand the suggestion that individuals should register their number to block cold calls. The poll shows that 100% (to the nearest integer) of people are fed-up with calls and texts, so what we need is an outright ban. Nothing less will do. If anyone wants to opt-in to receiving unsolicited calls, then let them do so at their peril.

Once again, I ask for market research calls to be regarded as nuisance calls. Many of them are in fact sales calls purporting to be market research, but even the genuine ones are nuisance calls to me and many others.

Thanks for the update and best of luck with the campaign. The previous Conversation may only be the second most popular discussion but has involved eight times as many people as the top one. Once again, I suggest that Which? makes use of TV to promote this campaign. It could be a good way of attracting new subscribers.

I support everything Wavechange has said above. Once again I sense that the official authorities are trying to see how little they can get away with to appease our capmaign.This is the time for an uncompromising approach with the government and regulators. If the collective pestering and harrassment by nuisance calls and texts happened on the doorstep it would be treated as a criminal act, or at least as anti-social behaviour, with appropriate sanctions and controls. Whether they are by landlines or wireless, voice networks are in the public domain and outlaws must be excluded, and ultimately excluded permanently. The technology exists but the will to do it is too weak, so go for it Which?; campaigning on this issue, the consumer has nothing to lose.

Working at home for a while during a fraught time whilst aged parents are being moved into care I’m receiving three or four calls a day. Many of them are from the same numbers. I’ve nearly gone hairless talking to the so called ‘regulators’ who represent in my view the very archetype of couldn’t care less salaried bureaucrat.

For heavens sake we are talking about telephones so why does the woman from the TPS insist on sending me a separate form to fill in and return by post for each complaint. I explained that I had four that day to deal with and she insisted that I made a separate report of each and refused to send me a bundle of forms or agree to my photocopying!

The line provider tells me that they cannot tell me the number of callers who ‘withhold’ because of Data Protection! Hey! Who is concerned about my data protection. My phone number is mine and who is permitting these rip-off merchants to use it? No only that but one caller who passed himself off as Money Saving Expert (No, it wasn’t that website, I emailed and tipped them off) already had a lot of my details and sweetly asked for more!

One caller who wanted to sell me solar panels admitted that their company operated through a valueless ‘arms length company’ who operated the call centre ‘just in case the regulators ever tried to stop us, just let them try fining us Ha Ha’ . . . Frankly this issue is way out of control and far beyond the grasp of the clueless ‘salarymen’ at the regulators. Indeed, how many good and competent regulators can you count on the fingers of one hand?

The answer must be to clamp down and fine the beneficiaries of the misdeeds as was, I seem to recall, the method that had the most effect on email spam where it proved impossible to nobble the people in the middle who pumped out the stuff.

In the meantime I’m leaping up every time the phone rings and so far this week the time used up answering, dialling number retrieval and communicating with ‘regulators’ is well over an hour. My partner who is a carer tells me that her clients who at home all day and are often vulnerable are also subject to this bombardment. It is a national scandal, the regulators should be regulated and if found failing sacked. Especially the pompous woman at Ofcom who patronisingly told me that they don’t deal with individuals – obviously we are beneath their notice!

Less than half an hour after I posted another call . . . this time automated from 01233270026 inviting me to recover PPI, never had any. On making my own enquiries this is actually a non existent line, a ‘spoof’ number. How do you report that?

When I asked Talk Talk to investigate and give me the real number person calling firstly they say they can’t it’s impossible so I told them it is not, simply decode the packet starting with 141. So then they said they wont . . . data protection I suppose. I had the same problem when I asked BT concerning my elderly parent’s line. I don’t suppose it is in the Telco’s interests to cut off all these lucrative calls first inward to us mugs and then our calls to the various toothless watchdogs!

To say that it is not possible to discern origin of calls originating in the UK is rubbish. To charge us to filter out ‘number not known or witheld’ is cynical. In any case I receive some important calls from government numbers and from overseas whose numbers are shielded or not relayed.

Please, please get something done!

Here’s some possibly goods news (and yes I’ve got my fingers crossed and I’m trying not to laugh as I type this) …. http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/phones/2013/04/talktalk-fined-750000-for-silent-and-abandoned-sales-calls

But wait that fine is for misdeeds from Feb-Mar 2011, over 2 years ago. Talk about dawdling or what.

Any regulator must bring these miscreants to justice within 6 months of any “offence”. Any longer is pointless. And maybe any fines levied should be paid to the people they’ve plagued with the calls in the fist place in addition to headline fines. Say £1k per phone call, that would slap another £9m to this fine. And strike the directors off too.

And you can read this story on which.co.uk 🙂 http://www.which.co.uk/news/2013/04/talktalk-fined-750000-for-silent-calls-317249/ Richard Lloyd comments: ‘It’s good to see Ofcom flexing its muscles against abandoned and silent calls. With so many people telling us they are being bombarded by nuisance calls and texts, we have been calling for all the relevant regulators to work together to properly police and punish those responsible with substantial fines and suspension of licences.’

Peter says:
18 April 2013

When I receive a Cold Call if I have not been addressed by name I ask the caller for the name of the person to whom they wish to speak. In the majority of cases the caller when then hang up but I have to admit that some individuals will persist in asking say “for the person who had the accident”. Another problem is that some Cold Callers now appear to be useing mobile phones.

I have encountered a different sort of problem with a call from my GPs Surgery. I answered the phone and the caller asked to speak to my wife by name. Upon asking for the name of the person wishing to speak to her I was informed it was a personal call. I asked my wife if she wished to take the call and her response was that if they couldn’t give their name she would not be speaing to them. Subsequently discovered the call originated at our GPs Surgery. Their response was that is was against the law to give the name of the caller if anyone other than the actual patient answered the phone. Is this the actual situation?

I’ve experience the precise opposite of this reluctance to disclose the caller. On three occasions over a period of a year I answered a ‘withheld’ call to hear a recording telling me that a medical appointment had been made for a particular time and day. I was not expecting such an appointment and, anyhow, calls from my own doctor are always from identifiable numbers. Since the call was from a withheld number and no information about the source had been given I was completely unable to tell the caller that the wrong number had been dialled. No doubt someone, somewhere was quite unaware that they had a medical appointment and the surgery was annoyed about a no-show.

Beewell says:
18 April 2013

I have to admit that I oscillate between extreme irritation (“hiya Mr Beewell, how’r yu today?”) – GET YOUR TANK OFF MY PHONE!! to poor devil, sounds civil enough, just trying to earn a crust in a call centre

Having time on my hands, I have perfected a Corporal Jones persona (daft old geezer). I answer none of their questions, just keep asking my own “Where are you calling from..?” repeated till I get an answer of some sort. “The Phillipines!? – that’s a long way away, isn’t it?”. “What time of day is it over there?” Never mind *his* script – back to the start of *mine*. And so on and so on.

*They* generally hang up after 3 minutes! My argument is that it’s their call, their time and I’m keeping them out of circulation for 3 minutes. And who knows? They might blacklist *me*!

18 April 2013

I am sick to death of UNAVAILABLE, INTERNATIONAL and then comes the PPI, problem with your computer, had an accident. NO I HAVEN’T!
Recently I have been rang by every charity possible.
GREENPEACE, CHILDLINE, asking for a monthly donation after a long speel about polar bears disappearing icecaps, children ringing in the early hours, no one to speak to.
I asked where they had got my number and they had replied probably from a survey.
The only survey is the one when they ring you up with an Asian accent and say their name is Shirley? When they ask if I would donate to various charities I always say no, I donate when I want to. I have asked for my number to be removed which they have obliged.

…and another recorded PPI outfit asking me to press 5 or 9 to be ‘removed’ from their list. BT is surely the biggest culprit here since it must be easy for them to blacklist calls from blank or false numbers – but they won’t. They’ll sell you a phone that will – but charge you ‘caller id’ to make it work. It’s a disgrace and they should be ashamed!

Depending on which package you have from BT caller id can be free.

And the phone you speak of I feel is missing a report this call button. One day maybe.

Pam Gibbard says:
18 April 2013

I have reported the same number to the ICO repeatedly over months and am still getting calls from that number – does the ICO ever DO anything!! I have TPS and am ex-directory – nothing seems to help.

Tim says:
18 April 2013

REGULATOR OR TECHNOLOGY? I note that you are focussing on the regulators and wonder whether you should also address the technology challenges. A number of comments have mentioned devices such as Call Blocker and BT advertises the BT6500 as the phone that “helps you block nuisance calls” and say “never miss calls from people you want to hear from by adding them to your VIP list”. Apparently another device is the Panasonic dect phone.

Can you comment on how effective these devices are and how they handle legitimate calls from Withheld or International numbers. (Unfortunately organisations such as my County Council insist on their numbers being Withheld, and I have relatives and friends overseas so having all Withheld and International numbers blocked is not an option.)

INTERNATIONAL CALLS Secondly can you explore why the full International number cannot be displayed on Caller Display?

WITHHELD NUMBERS I can understand why some organisations may not want to display the direct dial numbers of their staff but why can’t their exchanges be set up so that they display the publicly known numbers (which will be on their websites)?

CAN THE PHONE COMPANIES HELP? Why can’t the phone companies offer a service that would divert all calls from unknown or unfamiliar numbers to an intermediary that would check whether or not they are genuine? The number of comments on your page about frail or elderly people suffering at the hands of such calls makes me think that such a service would be welcomed. Presumably the phone companies would want to charge for this but why not charge the people who withhold their numbers for the privilege of having a Withheld number.

At the moment the regulators seem fairly toothless and the onus is on the recipient to uncover caller details and report it. Why should we? Are there any other technical fixes that could also help in addressing this problem?

Keep up the good work

mikkadol says:
21 April 2013

I agree with Tim on questioning whether enough focus is given to pursing a technology solution. ie REGULATOR or TECHNOLOGY?

I too would like understand why it is not possible to for a full international number to be displayed on Caller Display.

I do not answer international number withheld calls which always hang up on my answerphone message. Yesterday I had 5 such calls in the space of half an hour. The issue is that it is time wasting as well as being an intrusion . I have call screening but it is pretty ineffective. The downside of rejecting number withheld calls is that we have missed calls from the local hospital or doctor. On my mobile I get less scam calls about PPI after I responded with a strongly worded equivalent of go away. May be had nothing to with my response but I felt much better.!

martin says:
19 April 2013

Like almost everybody else, I’m sick of these nuisance calls. Bogus debt counselling, bogus PC maintenance, PPI and home insulation are the most frequent examples. Most are foreign calls but PPI and home insulation are usually UK based. I’ve been registered with TPS for years but it is ineffectual. Offcom will only take complaints if you can give them the callers number, but I can’t do that (even though I’ve a caller display) as the numbers are hidden ‘to protect the callers’ privacy’ ! Hah – what about my privacy? Offcom need to rule that the callers’ number should always be available to the recipient and phone line providers need to make that happen asap. Once the numbers of these nuisance call pests are available, they can be made public and then the calls will soon stop.

Deirdre says:
19 April 2013

I’m about to turn 77 and retain an old-fashioned respect for the validity of phonecalls to the extent that I will leap out of the shower to answer. With three sons and five grandchildren I am always, without being anxious, alert for possibilities of good or bad news. Most senior citizens have a history of parents, spouses, close friends being terminally ill and needing help. Like another of your members I also write and dislike being interrupted on the breezy assumption that anyone at home in the daytime must be watching airhead TV. As for the stress to those who are themselves seriously ill, this does not bear thinking about.

Nuisance calls on our home landline are bad enough but worse still, I started receiving these calls on my mobile while away on holiday. I was informed by O2, the service provider, that I will be charged 50p for each incoming call while I am in a EU Member State. So far two calls in one week and £1 worse off.

This racket has to stop else I will go broke before I go mad!

There’s a way around this. Instead of my real mobile number, I give out an 070 personal number to companies, which I can forward for free to almost any mobile number in the world. The catch is that a UK caller pays around 50p/min to fund this call forwarding. I use local SIM cards when abroad to avoid roaming charges, paying the same as a local resident for data, outgoing calls and incoming calls (which are nearly always free of charge) and SMS. There are plenty of providers of 070 personal numbers, but I use Flextel. They even send me an e-mail to log every incoming call, which very interestingly gives the caller’s real number, even if withheld, but without the last three digits; it is often different from the caller’s faked outgoing number that appears on my mobile. At least when I receive nuisance calls, I think to myself how much the nuisance caller is paying and I can see the area code that they are really calling from. And when I’m abroad, it doesn’t cost me anything to receive the call.

I had several silent nuisance calls a couple of years ago, all in the space of a few days. I just remained silent and the call ended promptly. A few days later the calls stopped. I was told by my telephone provider that the calls originated in New Zealand and it was an automated system calling lots of numbers at the same time and only if one of their agents was free at the same time as a person answered would the call succeed. So I was right to stay silent. I registered with the telephone preference service several years ago and that and the fact that I don’t give my home number unless I wish the recipient to call me seems to keep me relatively nuisance call free..

I forgot to mention that I entered a Channel 5 competition at Christmas as the prize was a staggering amount of amazing TV’s, iPads, computers, sat navs and any type of technology equipment to could dream of having. Well, did I regret this. I spent the next few weeks answering a whole pile of spam texts all trying to get me to enter other competitions. I will not dream of all these lovely gadgets again.

Maybe the regulators should also be looking to make it illegal to pass on/ sell / etc personal details, fullstop. And I’m sure I’ve mentioned this little gem before, ever noticed on one web page you get a tick to opt out and on the next page an untick to opt out. That practice should also be made illegal.

As other posters have already stated the following must be done:
* Force telecom companies to pass the caller ID on to the customer. Mobile companies can do this so why can’t BT?
* All businesses and organisations *must* not be allowed to withheld their caller ID.
* More effective enforcement of the existing regulations.

Mine is the same story … PPI and “that accident you had 2yrs ago, which must have caused you some health problems” … it didn’t.
Almost every comment above mentions the fact that the TPS , with whom I am registered, is ineffectual , so why is it that somebody is earning a good wage, not doing the job they are being paid for, and we are the idiots expecting some action ?
If I didn’t do my job, I would get the sack.
Is there a hidden agenda ?