Nuisance calls create real distress and our analysis of more than seven million phone calls reveals this is an everyday menace for many people.
We’ve been working with call-blocking provider, trueCall, to analyse landline calls going back to January 2013 made to 4,000 people in the UK who have a call-blocking device.
We found that on average trueCall customers get 26 unwanted calls a month – that means four in ten of all calls they’ve had in the past three years have been nuisance calls.
The high number may not surprise those of you who’ve been plagued by such calls. But it’s still deeply shocking to realise that for some people registered with a call-blocking service, the problem of nuisance calls has got worse over the past three years not better.
And that’s not the worst of it.
Nuisance callers target vulnerable people
We also looked at calls made to people who own a specialist trueCall device designed for older, more vulnerable people.
Worryingly, they got even more nuisance calls – 38 a month on average. One in five received more than 60 calls a month… two calls every day!
It’s pretty clear from our figures that companies are deliberately targeting older people, often calling them again and again and again. Companies such as Falcon and Pointer, which made two million calls and was fined £175,000.
And what’s the impact of these calls? Here’s what Yvonne from Livingston says:
‘These calls are intimidating and very worrying for my 95-year-old mother and also my in-laws who are in their 80s. They get extremely upset by the almost constant harassment.’
Who? What? Where?
The majority of the calls were made from withheld, international or unavailable numbers.
The Government has taken action on withheld numbers (see below), but still 87% of international calls in February 2016 to trueCall customers were nuisance calls.
We also found that some firms are calling 150,000 ‘honeypot’ numbers – numbers never issued to the public, highlighting that many firms auto-dial every available number.
What’s being done?
We’ve been campaigning to ‘call time’ on nuisance calls for years and we’ve been making progress – with your help.
This week, in the Queen’s Speech, the Government said it would introduce tougher laws on how companies obtain your consent, putting you in more control of your data, and penalising firms who continue to contact you.
We’re pushing for company directors to be held to account for their firm’s nuisance calls. This makes it harder for companies to go into liquidation to avoid fines. We think this will make companies think twice before pestering you with calls.
Last year we successfully campaigned to make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to prosecute nuisance callers. Just last week the regulator fined a Blackburn-based Claims Management Company £250,000 for making 17.5 million calls last year.
And last month after our campaigning, new laws were introduced meaning direct marketing companies can no longer hide behind ‘withheld’ numbers.
We also want to see solutions for tackling nuisance calls at a network level, similar to those recently announced by BT and in place for TalkTalk customers.
All of us have a role. Signing up to the Telephone Preference Service takes a few minutes and makes a difference. Encourage family members and friends to sign up too. And keep reporting nuisance calls to the regulators – the more reports they get the easier it is to take action against firms who pester us with nuisance calls.
Update: 14 June 2016
In a big win for our campaign, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced today that it’s signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and joined forces with eleven other enforcement authorities across the world to commit to sharing intelligence on nuisance calls and messages.
Stephen Eckersley, ICO head of enforcement, said:
‘Unlawful marketing calls and messages cause genuine fear, anxiety and frustration to citizens across the globe. It is a global problem that does not respect borders, requiring a global effort to tackle it.
‘This MoU means that authorities across the world, including the Information Commissioner’s Office, are now actively sharing intelligence. This will help us enforce the law and stop the scourge of nuisance calls and spam texts.’
The ICO joins the ACM (the Netherlands), the ACMA (Australia), CRTC and OPC (Canada), FTC and FCC (United States of America), NTSIT (United Kingdom) and KISA (Korea), Department of Internal Affairs (New Zealand) and National Consumer Commission (South Africa). The eleven members are all part of the London Action Plan group, a group committed to sharing intelligence in the fight against spam and unsolicited calls and messages.
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