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Nuisance calls & texts: the government has heard your calls

Calling Time campaign phone

Almost 82,000 of you have called for action on nuisance calls and texts. And the government has finally heard you loud and clear – it’s announced a crackdown on this menace. Do the government’s plans go far enough?

In a new strategy paper called Connectivity, Content and Consumers, the government has announced its plans to clamp down on nuisance calls and texts.

So what does the government propose? For starters, it says that it will implement two of the key asks from our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls & Texts campaign:

1. It will be made easier for Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to share data about nuisance calling companies.

2. It will reduce the level of distress that the ICO must prove before it can take enforcement action – nuisance calls will only have to be annoying, rather than causing ‘substantial harm’.

These changes alone may lead to more effective enforcement action against the worst perpetrators of nuisance calls and texts. And even more rule breakers may face fines if all of us report the calls and texts we’ve had by using the new Which? complaints tool.

Stepping up to nuisance callers

Rightly, the government also wants the industry to do more. Initially, this will focus on stopping nuisance callers from concealing their phone numbers, which at the moment makes it very hard for people to report the caller. Ofcom is working hard with the industry on a technical fix so that a phone number can’t be hidden, in a similar way to how IP addresses are identifiable online.

The government has said that it will go further if necessary, even to the point of introducing new laws that will require call centres to be licensed. The door has also been left open to improve the system of how people give consent to be contacted. However, we want to see the government go further and faster by strengthening the law on consent and the use of personal data. For example, there should be an expiry date on the consent you’ve given to be contacted by third parties, and it should be easier for you to withdraw this consent.

This action from the government cannot come soon enough for the 85% of people who are bombarded by nuisance calls and texts. Still, this isn’t the end of the story. We’ve now got to make sure that the action promised is put into effect. While some of the changes can be made by tweaking existing legislation, we’ll be supporting Mike Crockart MP’s Private Member’s Bill as another legislative vehicle for the government to use this November.

So what do you think of the government’s planned changes to take on the scourge of nuisance calls and texts? Do they go far enough?

Comments

Constant dripping wears away stone, so well done Which? for getting the promise of progress on this one. I can’t imagine there is any one not in favour of these moves, and getting new primary legislation behind them would obviously strengthen the ICO’s and Ofcom’s hands when tackling persistent abuses.

Firstly well done which.

“Ofcom is working hard with the industry on a technical fix so that a phone number can’t be hidden” — Can me make sure Ofcom also gets some action to prevent the spoofing of numbers, all too often when you try to call a number back you get sorry that number is not recognised.

This is very good news, at long last.

I don’t understand why we should be expected to continue posting complaints when the problem is so well established. Why can’t Ofcom and ICO do some investigation on our behalf? If we start reporting every nuisance call we receive it will waste a lot of our time. If 82,000 people are fed-up with nuisance calls, it is evident that action is long overdue.

DJ Badger says:
30 July 2013

sorry Cold calling via door knockers and telephone should be banned unless your a business and even then you must be ofered the chance to opt out

2ndly governmental agencies should be banned from selling our data ie DVLA

richard says:
30 July 2013

I doubt if it will work well – most cold callers are foreign anyway and will ignore the law if they make money

In the previous Conversation, NHSpatient said that these foreign calls could be on behalf of companies based in this country, and Patrick asked us to report them.

I am not optimistic about controlling calls from overseas, but prepared to clutch at straws. 🙂

Leslie says:
31 July 2013

Consent should always be in the form that you need to choose to tick a box to opt in specifically to each form of contact (snail, email, etc), and then only apply for a max 12 month period or less. I am currently being pestered by a call centre representing a supermarket bank/energy supplier every day. They’ve been doing this for years. I haven’t had any dealings whatsoever with the supermarket for two years or more and it’s extremely annoying. Yes, I have complained to the regulators more than once, but still the idiots plague me.

Without Which campaigning on the behalf of consumers very little would be done to change anything. Most of the regulators appear to be in post in name only. The only frustration now is how long it will take to implement,and why should all the emphasis be put on the consumer? I doubt if many elderly people will know what to do and many do not have computers so could not report anything on line.

Hilary Traveller says:
31 July 2013

Very good news and great campaigning Which? and supporters! I would like to see nuisance companies named, shamed and fined – bad publicity can have a corrective effect.

Most people are far more likely to do business with approved, respectful callers. It is therefore in everyone’s interest to have calls by consent.

Ole Constantine says:
31 July 2013

Well done Which, progress at last, but I wonder how long it will be before we see the real fruits of this campaign!

PETER LAX says:
31 July 2013

GOOD WORK BY WHICH, BUT THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO ACT!
FRANKLY I STILL THINK LICENSING ALL CALL CENTRES WILL PROVE NECESSARY.

Nice to see some progress, but … (a) When you get a cold call, how do you find out which company it is so you can complain? (b) How is this going to work for calls from other countries (e.g. India)?

And how will we issue licences to call centres in, say, India?
This will need co-operation from our phone companies who are currently making money out of deals to allow cheap calls from, say, India.

The only really effective solution is to make marketing (and market research) calls illegal except where the bill payer has opted-in to receive them, with large fines for those that break the rules. It should be illegal for companies to withhold their identity when calling.

Serious problems require drastic remedies.

I am pleased to see that something at long last is being done. Although I have found it quite effective to advise the caller that “this is call is being recorded for my purposes and is also being traced” very many have just hung up on me. But what I am angry over is the fact that I have had to resort to this to get rid of them. But the worst ones are the ones with the pre-recorded message so you do not get the chance to say to the to “push off”.

I have to agree with Richard – most of these calls are from overseas and as I have family living overseas I cannot block nonrecognised calls!

idas says:
31 July 2013

Sadly, these changes will not affect the many calls now coming from offshore call centres.

I cannot wait for a Coalition MP to start screaming, “they are ruining the economic recovery by stopping legal advertising” or some such nonsense.

When the Data Protection Act went through Parliament and part of it was “The Telephone Preference Scheme” there must have been extensive lobbying by business to ensure cold calling kerbs were weakened.

This did include making it legal to call a former customer even if the product to be sold was completely different enabling for example, Joe Bloggs Double Glazing who having sold Mr Jones double glazing could then call again 15 years later and sell anything from garage doors to guttering even if they were now called Joe Bloggs Home Improvements. (recognise the company?)

We can be sure that this time round there will be the architypical fat plain brown paper evelopes deposited towards those in key positions such that any new Act of Parliament is well diluted even before it is debated within a building where the windows towards the outside world get smaller and smaller the longer ones very own MP is there.

my son and I constantly get nuisance calls and I have written to my MP and bought a special phone but still it goes on, my son recently received a call and when he politely asked where did you get my information he was told to f,,, off you mother f,,,,,,, I have informed the police and got a crime number

Number withheld should be replaced by a service that identifies the caller but does not reveal their number. eg telephone displays “Holby Surgery” rather than “number withheld”.

This has been suggested on various occasions and is far more useful than having a phone number, and gets round various problems. I expect that it will take years to stop nuisance calls but perhaps this would be a useful interim measure. Caller ID has been available for so long that it cannot be a huge problem to provide additional information.

MikeP says:
31 July 2013

Nice work so far Which, but as usual the Government is not prepared to hit at the heart of the issue and ban all non solicited calls altogether. I am currently experiencing 3/4 call per day which is totally unacceptable.
Mr Cameron should publish his private phone number so we can help him experience some of the aggravation caused by these.
I come up with many schemes to get rid of them but even when they work it is my time wasted and I am completely fed-up.
At least if we could trace callers we could advise them that future calls would be taken as acceptance of my terms for answering unsolicited calls which is £150/hour following a £10 pick-up charge with recording of all incoming calls as proof for the Small Claims Court, if needed. I have used it successfully and callers can’t get off the phone quickly enough when told that continuing the call shows they have accepted my terms.

With regard to opting in to getting “nuisance calls” or being contacted by partners et al, I’d like to see some rules put in place to restrict the wording used and the number of times they can ask you.

On some websites they’ll ask twice and in different ways, which can only be to catch out the unwary.