/ Technology

Your view: all hung up on nuisance calls and texts

Hand holding up phone reciever

This week we announced our new campaign calling time on nuisance calls and texts. The reception so far has been electric, so I thought we’d focus on your nuisance call comments in ‘Your view’ this week.

Richard Lloyd’s Conversation calling for an end to nuisance calls has clearly struck a cord.

It’s our most popular Conversation this month, with more than 400 comments made so far. There have also been over 7,000 votes, with an incredible 100% of you saying you’re fed up with nuisance calls and texts. Liz Skinner sums up the feeling on this debate:

‘I hardly ever answer my landline as a result of these awful intrusive calls. But when I do get caught, I say I am not interested and they badger and harass me and make me feel guilty. I hung up on one once and he rang me back and shouted at me! This is outrageous. Surely there must be a way to stop them.’

Louise feels the same way, telling us on Facebook:

‘Wish I didn’t have a landline because all the calls are nuisance calls now… insulation grants, research and PPI claims … even though I have tried to be polite and cancel these calls, they are rude and intimidating. I now hang up immediately and often just don’t answer at all. It’s an invasion of privacy rights and freedom of choice.’

And it’s not just landlines, as Tracy told us on Twitter:

Keep calm and hang up

Some of you are calm, have a little fun with them, and then hang up. The aptly-named ‘Hangup’ feigns interest:

‘The latest trend in our calls is they start by saying “I am not selling anything”, so I now say “oh what a shame, I’m desperate to buy, sorry” and hang up… childish but strangely satisfying.’

David has a number of tactics to ‘play’ with nuisance callers:

‘I am so fed up with unwanted calls that I answer by asking which department they would like to be put through to. Silence follows. Another ruse is to say I would like to talk to them about the bible which always causes the line to go dead. If it’s a recorded message I just leave the phone on until I hear the beeping noise so that it costs them as much as possible. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!’

Commenter Ak goes a little further:

‘I just say “NO ENGLISH!” and start talking in Swahili. They soon put the phone down and hopefully remove my contact from their calling list.’

Garry tries playing them at their own game:

‘If I have time, I say hello and listen and ask them many questions until I get bored then I say “I hope I have wasted your time as much as you waste mine”. Not nice I know but then neither are the cold calls.’

Ian Hart bemoans the Telephone Preference Service, with a nice play on words:

‘The TPS really needs to get fitted with some real teeth, rather than the plastic ones which it seems to have, & which also seem to be a lot less effective than a beak-less budgie – the budgie at least, sucksseeds!’

The serious side of nuisance calls and texts

But there’s a serious side to all of this, which is best illustrated by some of the comments made, such as Caroline’s:

‘I have been off work for two weeks due to 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.’

Similarly ‘Dontstand4it’, who gets our Comment of the Week, has had an awful time due to nuisance callers:

‘Last February was a very distressing time as my mother in law who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease went missing from her home. I was back at work having helped search for nearly two weeks, not knowing what would be the outcome and awaiting the possibility of a phone call from the police that I was not looking forward to. On the afternoon of my return to work I received a phone call on my mobile from a woman who said ‘we have a very urgent message for you…’ Before I had the chance to realise it was yet another PPI sale, my mind went haywire and I felt physically sick.’

This is why we don’t want the regulators to delay. They need to set up a taskforce and take action before 12 weeks are up, otherwise we’ll ask the government to step in. So, make sure you don’t tone down your support – dial it up.


I have just had an important call from Virgin Money. The number was withheld, so I had my usual rant, explaining that I get lots of number-withheld nuisance calls.

Virgin is not alone and many reputable organisations do withhold their number. The university that I worked for did this, most of the time. Most callers are not able to explain why their organisation withholds their number, but I have had a few plausible explanations over the years.

It annoys me that people are making money from selling devices that block withheld numbers. They may do what they claim to do, but I don’t see them as very useful.

Sorry – I did not make it clear that the call from Virgin Money was about an account and certainly not a nuisance call.

Rachel Cobb says:
2 April 2013

I am so tired of nuisance calls and texts. I especially worry because my youngest child ( a mid-teenager) is autistic and doesn’t always know if calls are genuine or not. When they first began she thought they hung up because it was her fault!
Now when there is a call that comes from an unknown number I answer in a different language or pick up but say nothing – just giving them their own medicine – if they want to waste their money let them but they’re not ruining my life in the process. I will be the one smiling when they go down the pan.

phyllis bloor says:
2 April 2013

i like every one else fed up with nuisance phone calls my brother who lives on his own in accomodation gets a lot of phone calls also a huge phone bill he has speech problems and every time he he gets phone calls he rings me to see if i have rang him and so it goes on it is upsetting for him as he doesnt no who it is so the sooner this is seen to the better it is worrying for the old people especially when there is nobody at the other end

Wikipedia says this. . . .
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a UK register of domestic telephone numbers whose users have indicated that they do not wish to receive sales and marketing telephone calls. Registration is free of charge. The service is paid for by the direct marketing industry. There is a similar service for corporate users, the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS). Similar services are available in other countries.
It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS; however the TPS has no powers of enforcement. Enforcement is the responsibility of the Information Commissioner, which until 2012 did not have suitable legal powers to act, but in 2012 acquired the power to impose fines of up to £500,000, although enforcing the rules was not easy given the vast amounts of money that companies which flouted the rules stood to make.

So the information commissioner is the person we want – Christopher Graham

Once Which has gained lots of complainants it just has to write a letter in its role of ‘super consumer’ I think it is called, and everything will be fixed except for the overseas callers. They will need sorting by international treaty, so no hope there.

Or am I being too cynical?

I agree that there needs to one organization with the clout to take these parasites to task.

Maybe there could be a system where they can only phone you if you register that you want to hear from them otherwise they would be commiting a crime that they could be prosecuted for.

mikkadol says:
8 April 2013

I pay for caller display on a BT landline and have a number of friends and relatives in France. Calls from France come up on caller display as ‘UNAVAILABLE’ and I am forced to pick-up all such calls and of course a significant proportion turn out to be nuisance calls.

Can anybody with telecoms expertise explain why international calls cannot be processed/conditioned such that they activate caller display as for local calls ie identify the caller as attributed in my phone’s directory?

With this functionality I could then adopt the strategy of letting any ‘unknown caller’ to pass through to the answer machine. If the unknown caller had important info to impart then presumably they would take the time to leave a message. Cold callers and automated calls are probably programmed to terminate the call if an answering machine is detected and anyway to get you to call back they’d have to identify themselves.

Can any readers in France clarify the France telecom service offering? I believe it goes something like this. . . . An incoming call with number withheld is intercepted by France telecom. The caller is asked to speak his name and phone number. If this is acceptable the call is answered.

If I have got this right it would be the answer to all the problems. The cold callers would hang up, genuine callers like me would be answered. All my calls are ‘international’ because I use VoIP which does not allow caller ID. VoIP is tremendously much cheaper than any other service.

M Dagg says:
17 April 2013

I could scream with frustration at the number of nuisance calls I get – despite being registered with “Telephone Preferences”. Apart from the usual PPI mis-selling, and solar heating companies, I had a car accident 3 years ago (cash for crash!) and was bombarded by claim companies urging me to sue for personal injury … which I didn’t have! They were persistent, and I’d like to know how they got my telephone number …. logically, it must stem from the insurance company! Another irritation is the “just doing research …” ploy. I’ve actually reach the stage where I’m being abusive before slamming down the ‘phone! Please, please, make them go away!

Jay says:
30 April 2013

I seem, now, having been TPS registered for years, to finally have almost stopped getting sales calls from the UK (and any I do still get I give very short shrift & report them to TPS) But this week the number of calls I’ve had from overseas numbers has increased dramatically – several a day – and of course these are the ones that I can’t do ANYTHING about – partly because they’re overseas but also because they’re “surveys”, so are exempt from any guidelines.
Heartily, deeply fed up having just taken ANOTHER one, at 7.30 in the evening, from someone very pushy who wanted to offer me a “free survey to save you money”.
And prior to this round of overseas calls, it was endless recorded messages about PPI/debt management etc. Aaaaaaarrgghhhh!!!!!

I had over 20 calls yesterday; one from Sky, which I didn’t want, but at least I am actually signed up with the company; and the rest from India, doing the old ‘something wrong with your computer’ routine. I said I wasn’t interested and hung up; they rang back immediately; this was repeated for several goes. Later in the day, it all started again. I said I didn’t have Windows; they rang back and said ‘something wrong with your Linux machine’. I switched the answerphone on for a while. Later it all started again, so I let them have the rape alarm down the mouthpiece (I seem to have lost my whistle) for a minute and hung up. Guess what? They rang straight back… The phone’s ringing NOW this minute… yep: India calling, third time today (so far).

Is there nothing that can be done about the overseas calls? I bet the Indian government would be complaining to the Foreign Office if the UK was bombarding Indian homes with nuisance calls!

And why, BTW, should the UK telephone suppliers be allowed to collude? As far as I can tell, they are all making a nice packet out of add-ons such as ‘Anonymous Caller Reject’ and ‘Choose to refuse’, which cost more than double the amount of extras like ‘Caller Display’, but presumably are still a simple automated system… These services should be available FREE and provided AS STANDARD. They should NOT be treated as luxuries.

I am one of many thousands of home owners who are profoundly deaf so use a minicom text phone coupled to a flashing light unit to give warning of incoming calls, I have kept check and 100% of the incoming calls over six months were voice so I could not deal with them so I called in a electrical engineer to disconnect the phone from the flashing light unit but retain it for the front door push and smoke alarm ….. peace at last I can now thumb my nose at all the cold callers who no longer worry me at all ,I hope they enjoy listening to my phone ringing.