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Update: 26 nuisance calls a month

Nuisance calls research

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.

Take our nuisance calls quiz

Test your knowledge of this everyday menace.

joan mcelherron says:
22 May 2016

I get at least 5 nuisance calls per day .

I acquire more than this and a high percentage are coming from London and abroad, where minimal connection is operative unless when visiting relatives in London.

Average 21 nuisance calls a month. Could be more

Paul says:
23 May 2016

I am really not impressed with the so called report them service that seems to make no difference to them whatsoever. Also the sorry sir I’ll report it to my manager and make sure the name is off the list. What utter nonsense this is. I am also very upset that these despicable characters are hounding my mother, a little old lady, who having just lost her life long husband, does not need these fools bothering her at all. The service providers know who they are as the call detail appears in the service providers data base of all calls and they just sit there with the money rolling in.

I receive almost zero nuisance calls. This is because I don’t have a fixed line and I don’t need one. My internet is delivered into my home via an ethernet cable, giving me 1Gbps upstream and downstream for £40/month. I speak to friends and family using Skype, WhatsApp or Viber, which gives much better call quality than a fixed line telephone line. The consequence of having no fixed line that I enjoy the most is the lack of nuisance calls. Adding one’s mobile number to the Telephone Preference Service is much more effective than adding a fixed line, so I receive almost no nuisance calls on my mobile.

I highly recommend giving up landline telephones; they are no longer necessary.

DW says:
22 May 2016

In principle – fine. In practice, far from everyone can get internet delivered as ethernet and quite a lot cannot get effective broadband internet at all (there is no universal coverage in this country and the government have recently made it clear that they have no intention of making that happen). Also, those who are most affected by the unwanted calls (the older and more disadvantaged) are the most unlikely to have this option available to them. The only way forward is to a) make all cold calling illegal, b) actually enforce the prohibition on using fake CLIs (source numbers) and c) force all telecoms companies to perform real-time source tracing on all calls and pro-actively block both fake and otherwise identified offending call sources. Yes, this will cost money; the offenders should be made to pay every penny with unlimited fines on companies and directors.

Try having both a landline and mobile as business numbers.

Even after retiring and all but a few free listings have expired, I would be delighted to only get 26 calls per week, never mind 26 per month!

Most of my nuisance calls are on my mobile that is registered with TPS not on the landline that is also registered with TPS.

I assume it is because I give out my mobile more than the landline as my contact phone number.

DW, I know people whose internet is delivered via ADSL, but they simply don’t plug in a telephone into the landline. Although they’re unreasonably forced to have a landline (and to pay for it), they don’t use it at all.

Interesting, alfa. I seldom use my mobile – yet another battery that is always flat when I want it! So I only take it with me on holiday or if going away overnight – in case of emegencies. Result – no nuisance calls and about 10 PPI or similar texts per year. On the landline they come in waves – up to 3 a day sometimes and then nothing for a week or so.

As NFH said, if you only use a landline for access to broadband, you won’t be able to suffer from nuisance calls (unless you also have a mobile and get any on that).

As I see it, for broadband, there is little or no price difference between suppliers that itemise a specific line rental charge and those that don’t. Whatever they do, access to broadband costs about £22/month.

DW says:
24 May 2016

Many people in country areas (including me) do not have access to ADSL because of the appalling infrastructure in this country outside major towns and cities. The only option here is a very expensive and unreliable wireless service. Mobile coverage is also patchy so the only option is to also pay through the nose for a landline in order to guarantee access to emergency services when needed. Also do not assume that everyone (again the older and more vulnerable) either uses a computer or can even afford to have one turned on all day just to access VoIP.

Paul Holmes says:
22 May 2016

The TPS does absolutely nothing I still get the nuisance calls daily .

You don’t know how many calls TPS is stopping. It can only protect telephone subscribers from calls from UK companies that are enrolled with TPS [which is an off-shoot of the UK’s Direct Marketing Association]. There is no restriction on calls from other UK companies who are not DMA members, and on calls from overseas. Firms that do not consider themselves to be involved in direct marketing but periodically work through their own lists of past customers or people who have previously shown interest [e.g. estate agents], and organisations that claim not to be selling but are conducting a survey or announcing their presence in the area, are not excluded from calling. The TPS is not an active intercepting system – it relies on DMA members to abide by its code of practice. Perhaps these limitation are not well-enough known.

DW says:
22 May 2016

Absolutely right. And as such it is a broken system and is so by design. It is operated by the cold callers for their own benefit. It is not there to benefit those of us who are plagued by the cold callers. Simple answer – ban all cold calling; Replace the TPS/MPS/etc with single opt-in service for those who actually do want to be called (with the ability to opt-out again at any time), this to be entirely funded by the callers and any business that makes calls not in compliance with the list automatically fined for every unwanted call.

Same here. Been with TPS for years but still get multiple cold calls at all times of the day & evening. I am forever reporting these calls to every firm/Co deeming to take action!
It is time the law was changed to bar selling on our phone No’s to all & sundry & I truly believe Government Depts (both national & local), are some of the worse offenders. I also think BT & other providers could, if they wanted to, control them.

TPS applies to all companies making live marketing calls whether they are members of the DMA or not.

How do you deal telephone directories – paper and online?

That might be the intention and the strict legal position, Castle, but people’s experience suggests that non-DMA companies ignore it and enforcement has been so lax. As a protection from nuisance calls it isn’t working, and a 2013 survey by Which? found that people registered on the TPS list received twice as many marketing calls as those not on the list.

What can be done about the dead calls where the phone rings and there is no one at the end , not even our old friend the robot that comes on after a pause?

Can BT ban some STD codes that are shared between genuine people from an area and cold callers. There are two STD codes… one in North East England and one on Northern Ireland., where the STD first numbers prefix can be bought into . So when you get the call display you don’t know if you are getting a genuine call from the North East or Northern Ireland or someone claiming to help with PPI issues or the accident you never had or the solar panels .

Ive stopped answering my landline, bought an answerphone that answers after 3 rings. So anyone who really wants to talk to me has to leave a message and i will call them back. should they get through this screening I now just give them a load of verbal abuse (full on swearing, inappropriately loaded to the appropriate accent) and threaten then with the Data Protection Act if they don’t delete my details. even that doesn’t make them go away. – Wish i could do away with my landline but i want the interweb so i gotta keep it.
Actually that should be the next Which campaign. “Broadband without a phone line rental”

It is worrying that older more vulnerable people are being targeted. You have to ask how scammers (because that is what nuisance callers are) , get their information that allows them to be so selective.

Scammers who have been caught and/or fined should be made by law to reveal their sources. The sources giving out our personal data also need to be held to account.

All this information then needs to be made public so we can avoid any company selling our data.

But this does prove that all cold calling and buying and selling of our personal data should be illegal.

M E says:
23 May 2016

To the ones that get through sue to the area code I DO ask how they got my No. I inform them I am registered with the TPS & I am reporting them

Everytime I get a nuisance call I block the number. I would like to know how they get your number in the first place

We don’t have call blockers on our landlines and get hardly any nuisance calls, whereas it seems that people who have installed a trueCall device are plagued by them. There is no logic in this because people who have installed a call-blocker are clearly hostile to nuisance callers. Automated call-generators that try all numbers until they get a hit and then play a recorded message or connect with an agent would not be able to distinguish between a protected and an unprotected line. My only possible explanation for this is that our answering machines, which do not relay messages as they come in, are somehow blocking the unwanted calls, but how is a mystery; occasionally there has been a recorded nuisance call in the answering machine memory alongside the missed calls that we want and can play back, but it’s weeks or months since we had one.

Ian says:
24 May 2016

It’s not that people who have installed a trueCall device are plagued with nuisance calls, it’s people who are plagued with nuisance calls get a trueCall device. Once installed and activated the problem is solved. They are no longer plagued with nuisance calls, their phone only ever rings for genuine calls. Once this technology is deployed on the phone networks, everyone can benefit from the trueCall approach to challenging all unknown callers.

I agree with CW that swearing at nuisance callers is effective. I don’t accept the argument that the callers are doing a job and therefore shouldn’t be subject to verbal abuse. If that was valid, one could apply the same argument to burglars and other unlawful occupations. If everyone swore at nuisance callers, they would quickly find another way to earn a living.

Quote: 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.

All dodgy business people who use liquidation as a way to shirk scams and responsibility have a nasty habit of off-loading their assets to spouses etc. before going into liquidation. Isn’t it about time the law changed to enable recovery of funds from these shysters?

Have not answered my phone for nearly two years goes straight to answer machine as average 10-15 calls per day now they are starting on my mobile 😩😩😩

Yesterday I had a call from a local funeral director asking me to decide which cask I wanted “when the time comes”
It was a recorded message and did not unduly bother me (age 86) but some vulnerable people could be upset by this. Live in Crowborough East Sussex

The Blackburn firm which was fined £250,000 last week went into liquidation in March 2016 with no assets and liabilities of £115,000 plus of course the fine. Yet another pointless investigation!

I get an average of 3 calls per day, including many scams

John barton says:
22 May 2016

I just swear and shout at them. It doesn’t have any effect but it makes me feel better.

I get about 4/5 on a bad day I even had an International call at 2am a few weeks ago. It is a joke it is not as though you can understand what they are saying to you even if you did want to speak to them.

I feign great interest in their call, agree to answer theur questions etc etc but first ask them to “hold on a couple of seconds whilst I remove the pan from the cooker as it’s about to boild over….I’ll be right back with you”.

I then place the phone on the worktop and walk away.

The caller then has a decision to make – how long to hold on for this “REALLY” interested sucker with the pan on the cooker. Whilst they make that decision they are NOT calling other people.

I also believe they feed-back into their computer system the fact that I’ve just wasted their time. Similar feed-back is collected when the dialing-computer registers the ‘phone is answered but has no available agents to connect with – all busy with other calls. The date and time is recorded to build-up a pattern to best determine the time when a future call will be answered.

If I’m correct in this belief the agent flagging me as a time-waster will result in that computer system being reluctant to call me in the future.

It is also my belief that if you quickly convince them they are wasting their time they will leave you alone for a while.

Give them the slightest hint that they might get you with persistence and they will keep calling but cutting them off quickly so they know they are wasting their time does seem to work.

So I don’t have a computer, don’t own a car or have never had an accident. don’t own a house or already have insulation, never had PPI (although they now want to check out your accounts for you just in case), don’t have gas, don’t have a TV or simply it is none of their business.

Funny enough, minutes before I received Which email to sign this petition, I had a miss call on my mobile which has ‘no number’!
How is this possible? Any ideas?
Many thanks, Maria

ian hampson says:
22 May 2016

replacement windows you press 9 to be removed they call again i even pressed 5 for a call back told them it was a council house and not to phone again they did on a sunday the pc ones are doing the rounds survey ones to ppi pensions as well

Ian, have you checked your phone bill to see how much it costs you to press 9 or 5?

You could be dialling premium rate numbers.

It also confirms to the originator that an active household phone line exists and the address is accessible for additional exploitation.

I don’t care if I get a thumbs down but……….

Would whoever gave me a thumbs down for reminding people they might get charged for returning nuisance calls please explain themselves?

g casey says:
22 May 2016

what is the frigging point,, nothing at all get done about it,, so there is just no point in complaining about them