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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
Joules says:
31 July 2013

Waste their time – First ask them as many q’s as you can think of – name, company, company no. address, qualifications, hobbies, etc – They will eventually put the phone down – but you are not finished yet – Leave your phone off the hook!! so they are still paying for the call and cannot phone anyone else. I have done this a few times and we now receive a lot less nuisance calls.

Excellent news, wonder if the “Fix” to display numbers can be made to show country of origin and and VOIP source identity such as Skype account name?

But for the present really good start

G6JPG says:
31 July 2013

Since most of the calls are from overseas, you won’t stop them – unless you go for the companies who route the calls to you (i. e. your telephone provider and those before them), who will fight any such suggestion tooth and nail. They should at the very least be “persuaded” to block calls with fake (or premium) calling numbers – such calls are illegal anyway, but the routing of them isn’t (yet).

George says:
31 July 2013

The proposed Government action is just not good enough. The problem is getting worse by the day. Even small local businesses are now getting in on the act with computer dialling together with recorded messages. The major offenders are increasingly making use of international call centres and non-identifiable caller numbers to bypass any rules or regulations. There is also an increasing incidence of calls from international sources that play music when answered while you wait until someone in the call centre deigns to pick up the dialled call. The ICO and Ofcom complaints procedures are rubbish – to register a complaint they require complainants to have answered the nuisance calls and made enquiries with the caller to obtain contact details of the company calling and the subject of the enquiries being made by the caller; how many people are doing this ? The complaints registered must only be the tip of the iceberg. The efforts made and actions taken by the ICO and Ofcom do not justify the cost of those organisations as indicated by the remuneration of the senior officers of ICO and Ofcom which can be obtained through the internet.

Callers that call without invitation or permission are both intrusive and a nuisance. Whilst not advocating violent or obscene language, I make it perfectly clear to them that they are unwelcome, demand both their and their employers’ names, and let it be known that further calls will result in yet more unpleasantness.

What about the silent calls,or the ones where after a brief silence a recorded voice says ‘goodbye’? There is never a number, much less a company or any other information so reporting them is a waste of time. I am fed up with them – I get at least 1 a day as well as the others. It is a waste of my time, although I get my own back in a small way by not ending the call for at least 5 minutes.

As for the other calls, after asking for the company name, telephone number and other time wasting questions I tell the caller (very politely) that I have most definately not consented to my name being passed on; precisely what I think of their company and their morals, or lack of.

Well done Which? for getting something done.

Jack says:
31 July 2013

Excellent work so far – well done Which! The Govt is slowly waking up to the power conferred on consumers by the internet – and we’ve hardly started! The real problem at the centre of so many issues is the sale of personal information to commercial interests. I’m afraid we’ve all sleepwalked into the erosion of our privacy in so many ways. Previous generations would have been horrified and furious at the cheek of it all. The Govt should bring in legislation to make it illegal to pass on any information about individuals by private companies without their express, written permission. This would kill most invasions of privacy/nuisance calls/junkmail stone dead. We should all press for this.

Surely the telephone providers could provide us with a facility like 1471 which bars the last caller. At least you only get the call once – I get lots of automated calls which are annoying. One rang 3 times in a hour.

There is BT”s “Choose to Refuse” service. Unfortunately, you can only ban up to 10 numbers though, and have to pay about £4/month for the privilege! Personally, I think it should come as standard, free of charge.

Davidr says:
31 July 2013

I keep wondering where is the technology to block calls on mobiles and landlines in the same way that you can block junk email? We have call blocker which seems to be working ok. But there should be simpler solutions available to all.

I joined this campaign. Unfortunately, many of the nuisances don`t display a telephone number, so cannot be traced.
I have found that the best approach is to get “Caller Identity” on your phone. If no number is shown we do not answer. We have told friends who are ex-directory to wait for the answer phone to kick in, then say who they are.

TPS is useless. When I have informed them of nuisance calls they say that they cannot do anything about them. What is the point of the TPS?

Dave Stead says:
4 August 2013

The point of TPS was to fend off the inevitable push for legislation while the phone spamming industry pretended to self-regulate and had a few years free abuse of our phones.

So HMG has committed to two very minor changes(when??) and an MP has drawn 11th of 20 on a private member’s bill.BIG DEAL!! All this is so underwhelming. Nothing announced about unsolicited calls using “hijacked” spare groups of UK numbers from foreign (sub-continent??) help desks by people using very British names and very un-british thick subcontinent accents. Nothing announced about unsolicited recorded messages where no company name or phone number is given, but the recipient is encouraged to press a key – very likely incurring rip-off premium call rates. Nothing announced about stopping the selling of name&phone lists without the victim’s overt permission in absolutely each instance: no permission – no data!! HMG has allowed greedy business the upper-hand. It’s time that people and individuals are returned full control over ALL their personal data.

In another win for our campaign, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Ofcom have announced a joint action plan to take on nuisance calls and texts.

Responding to the action plan, Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:

‘We’ve long been calling for regulators to work closer together to tackle nuisance calls and texts so the joint plan from Ofcom and ICO is welcome news, and we hope will lead to tough action against companies that persistently break the rules.

‘It is right that the regulators are now looking at the issue of a time limit on marketing consent, however the government also needs to strengthen the law to put people back in control of their personal data.’

The ICO and Ofcom also announced their joint priorities over the coming months:

Ongoing enforcement against rule breakers.
Improving call and message tracing processes to track down those responsible.
An assessment of the impact of the Telephone Preference Service to understand how well it’s currently working for consumers.
The publication of revised industry guidance on marketing consent to include detailed advice on appropriate methods of consent, the limitations of indirect third-party consent, time limits, and the need for records of consent.

Thanks to all of our supporters who helped ramp up the pressure!

Tigh says:
31 July 2013

The TPS is useless and pointless. Since registering with them, my nuisance calls have not been reduced at all. When I told one caller I was going to report his company to the TPS, he laughed and carried on with his sales pitch.
I’m sure I have now told every salesperson in the country – at least twice – that I don’t want solar panels, but still they keep coming…
And I get at least two international sales calls every day trying to scam access to my computer…

A lot of nuisance calls come from India,and these are the most persistent ones,also there is no doubt in my mind they are working directly or indirectly for companies in this country.
The people who sell our information need to be prosecuted as well,this includes local councils,it seems to me,we are still being treated as surfs,there for the whims and use of those in power/positions.

Also it should cover email address,we give these so firms we deal with can contact us,not for them to sell world wide,as happened to me,when I had repairs done to my PC,at one time I got over 100 spam messages a day,now down to about 30,and most of these come from our cousins across the pond. I have spent hours making filters,but some still get round them.As some times I need to look through the spam,to find messages that I do want,I find it frustrating.

And the next thing that needs sorting is cold callers on our door steps,normally they will not take a no,and I either get very blunt or shut the door in their face,and these are the worse ones for ripping off the vulnerable.

Get a no cold caller sign for you door, your local trading standards will have one on their website. Don’t expect this to work 100% however, charity workers regularly ignore these signs. As discussed on other which convo forums search for chuggers

If the sign is ignored, my local trading standards have a sample letter you can use to email the company in question

http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/business-and-consumers/stop-cold-callers/frequently-asked-questions-about-cold-calling/cold-calling-template-letter.

Upon sending such an email to a well known double glazing firm, they seemed very worried that Trading Standards might go after them, and sent me several emails apologising.

Good luck

Grandma R says:
1 August 2013

Has anyone else had the latest cold caller on their doorstep? TalkTalk knocked on my door recently even though I have a notice advising all that I do not buy or sell anything from uninvited traders. Apparently they just wanted to inform me that my local telephone exchange is being upgraded. The young lad with the large TalkTalk badge assured me that he wasn’t trying to sell anything! Complete and utter rubbish! No doubt his company was just imparting this information out of the goodness of their heart.

Paul Tarry says:
1 August 2013

Because we are fed up with nuisance calls, we have a number display. If we recognize the number, we answer. If we don’t recognize it, we don’t answer; if the caller is genuine, they can leave a message or we can interrupt while they are leaving the message. Recently I received a call from 0330something, didn’t recognize it and let it ring. But I didn’t ignore it. I did a 1471 to get the caller’s full number. Then I Google searched it and found that lots of people had been pestered by this number, often by silent calls but not always. I then made an online complaint to TPS. They wanted to know what sort of call it was; their drop-down menu did not allow me to say it was a nuisance call that I hadn’t answered but I ticked something anyway and submitted my complaint. TPS replied to say they could not trace this number, so couldn’t do anything about my complaint. If TPS can’t trace nuisance callers, what use are they?
I signed up to your campaign long ago and congratulate you on the progress you have made. A long way to go yet and someone will need to do some enforcing of the rules – enforcement at the moment is pretty feeble.
Your new complaints tool does not appear to allow me to report the type of nuisance call, which I don’t answer, either – or does it?

I think you’ll find the “tool” is only to route you to one of 3 different places (TPS, ICO, OFCOM), depending on the type of call each one of these places cater for.

Lez says:
1 August 2013

There should be a reporting code which you can dial right after receiving such a call that tags the previous call as a nuisance one that needs to be flagged and dealt with. The volume would be high at first, but long term would act as a deterrent. Something simple to remember like the 999 and 111 numbers, perhaps 666 could be used 🙂

And a similar set up to forward texts to.

Great minds think alike … http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35828

Unfortunately it ends tomorrow and has hardly anyone sign up

A good idea, but it would only work if the “number withheld” system was withdrawn.

Hi Lez, just to let you know, there is a forwarding system for texts. Here are the numbers:

3 – 37726 Orange – 7726
EE – 7726 T-Mobile – 7726
O2 – 7726 Vodafone – 87726

I have just signed it and Tweeted it, but I only have a few followers. I urge more people to sign and Tweet the petition.

Dave Toomey says:
1 August 2013

Good work Which? Lets hope that the proposed new legislation gives OFCOM some teeth.
Here’s my suggestion in the meantime.If you have a choice of ringtones (even some landline phones have them) you can give each of your regular contacts a particular tone and in time you will be able to identify who is calling you before you pick up the phone. Others calls will be identified by the standard or default tone, or one of your choice. To avoid missing other genuine callers I also suggest you leave a recorded message such as
“If you are family or friend please leave a message and I will get back to you. If this is an unsolicited call and I am not currently doing business with you then hang up now”

MICHAEL ANDERSON says:
1 August 2013

This is a good start, but I can’t see that it will prevent nuisance calls from overseas, which are the main problem for us.Doubtless like many others, we can’t block all overseas calls because we have family and friends overseas, with whom we need to keep in touch.

I wonder if this could be turned on its head by engineering some sort of system whereby people calling from overseas can send a text to the receiving telephone in advance which would announce their call. Most telephones can receive texts these days, certainly those with caller line identification. That way, any overseas call not preceded by a text can safely be ignored.

Derrick Baker says:
1 August 2013

Which is doing a great job but don’t expect miracles from OFCOM.
I have had an on going issue relating to illegal radio broadcasting since 2005 and it’s still not resolved.
People seem to move around so quickly in the organisation that you can never hold anyone to account.
However, I wish Which all the best in their continuing effort

Enid says:
1 August 2013

It’s a good start but I think that everyone should be treated as opting out of receiving email and phone contact UNLESS THEY OPT IN not the other way round as at present.