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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.

doug says:
11 June 2016

yesterday whilst recovering from a session of chemo therapy I had 5 calls through the day obviously the one at 9am this morning was someone from mexico interested in my health, These calls should be re directed to 10 downing street

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This comment was removed at the request of the user

Cold callers will surely simply locate their operation in countries that are not involved in any information-sharing, won’t they? If we are to get anywhere it will have to be through a technical solution. Have the telecom “experts” been consulted to see whether such a solution can be imposed or developed? Or is it simply a problem, like email spam, that we’ll have to learn to live with?

I presume that most the cold callers are working for companies trading in the UK (I don’t bother to find out), in which case it would be reasonable to take action against these companies.

It’s likely that the company they are working on behalf of would not be disclosed, you see. Doing a life style survey……… have you got double glazing……. we can recover PPI… No UK company has to be named. We are dealing with clever people who, like gambling companies and tax havens will run rings around the “authorities”.

And I’d hazard a guess that many companies outside the UK are interested in us.

Legal methods have not succeeded. Will a technical solution be forthcoming?

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Malcolm – I welcome technical solutions but some of the problems could be addressed fairly easily. For example, companies making nuisance calls about double glazing, replacement boilers and anything else involving a home visit would be identified when they turn up to do the work. Even if the calls are made by an overseas call centre, action should be taken against the local company. Duncan is dead right that we need to act against companies that make our life hell.

Of course, but these are not all the companies creating nuisance calls. I’m concerned to help deal with all nuisance calls, not just the selected ones you mention – hopefully the latter being dealt with by legislation.

Which? has, unusually, “partnered” with a commercial organisation selling a call-blocking device – Truecall – in producing its recent report on Nuisance Calls. The data used seems to be prepared by Truecall for the report. It receives 18 mentions in the magazine together with its logo and effectively a Which? endorsement. Perhaps Which? members could get a discount? 🙂

Commercial organisations are often in the best position to provide data, although some sceptics out there might reject such an approach on principle. I would have liked to see evidence used from other devices, such as the cpr callblocker for example. These both provide partial technical solutions. What would be useful is if they perhaps could automatically report potential nuisance calls via the net to a centre where they could be analysed and, hopefully, lead to tracking down more quickly some of the offenders. Maybe that is not possible?

Of course we need technical solutions, but what I have suggested could be achieved now, without waiting for their development.

I’m not happy that Which? has partnered with a commercial organisation. I want to see Which? remain an independent organisation and not risk manipulation by the commercial world. We already suffer from manipulation of government by business.

There is no reason why call blockers need to be installed in the home rather than as a facility provided by the service provider – other than it is a way of making money. If Which? thinks the TrueCall system is good then why not push for it to be provided to all customers as a free service?

wavechange, we are not in disagreement. Legislation may solve part of the problem, but only a part I believe. We also need to pursue other avenues – technical for example – to see if they can also reduce the incidence of nuisance calls. Calls asking for access to your computer, because it has a problem, scammers from overseas seeking to get you to invest in fraudulent deals, surveys that will produce results that are sold on with your personal information……..there is a long list of examples where legislation is not an answer.

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Elma says:
14 June 2016

I have found that Mentioning “have you checked the TPS register, I have signed up ” works like a “silver cross to a vampire ” My level of cold calls has significantly dropped

posted in error

Here’s a little irony. Yesterday I suspect I had a nuisance call from BT. To be fair, an engineer had only sorted out a line issue at a cabinet last week for me, so it seems likely the call was genuine. However, the call started by the caller claiming to be from BT and then asking for my name. The conversation went like this:

Caller: “Hi. I’m from BT. Can I have you name, please?
Me: “How do I know you are who you say you are?”
Caller: “You had a line fault last week and I’m just ringing to ask how things went. Can you tell me your name, please?”
Me: Not really. You need to prove you are who you say you are, so how about you give me the first 4 numbers of my BT account?”
Caller: “(something unintelligible) Sorry I can’t help you. ” Rings off.

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08009526060 I’m pretty sure it was legit, but asking me for identification after he called me was a bit daft.

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There is so much technology around these days from the car that can report to the dealer that something is going wrong with it without the drivers knowledge to the fridge that can order food.
So why cant the communication companies create a system that one can log into on your account that as an individual you can add numbers that you wish to block. Then it would be up to the individual as to what numbers they wish blocked.
I keep getting calls from a solicitors asking me about PPI, I have used their option to stop getting their calls, and I still get them. Even though I am registered with the TPS it makes no difference to them. Mind you if I ever were to get hold of their managing director I would have a few choice words to say to him… before I ram his automatic dialling machine up where the sun doesn’t shine. This particular company has caused me distress in the past, and it is something that can’t be fixed. Anyone know who this number belongs to? 0143237953 because I want to find them.

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I have been getting call all times of the day even at seven thirty in a morning ,and it is not that you dont have to answer them you always think something could be wrong with the family I find it very stressful,my husband has a stroke and I have cancer and a broken ankle just now I don’t need people calling unless it is necessary.

Alf Beard says:
29 June 2016

We just get sat down to our suppers around 6.20pm after a hard days work and then the phone rings and when we answer the caller puts the phone down this then goes on until around 9pm, what is more annoying is that we are ex directory and have registered and reported the numbers to the TPS.
Rant over.

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Only three nuisance calls today so far. The first hung up straight away. The second at 13:31 was from 020 374 5751, who wanted to talk to me about my ongoing PPI claim. I don’t have one. The third at 13:57 was the most interesting. An international call from a gentleman with southern Asian accent telling me he was from the Telephone Preference Service. “I know you are registered with the service” he said, “Are you still getting a large number of nuisance calls?” “Yes”, I replied. “Well I am here to help you.” he stated, “I need to confirm a few details, firstly your address is ….?”, “Correct”, I answered. “And your Credit Card expiry date is in 2017. Would you confirm the exact date, please?” “Hang on a minute,” I said, “Why does the TPS need my Credit Card information?” “Oh we already have the details, sir, we just want you to confirm them so we can set up the call blocking service.” I started to protest that the TPS would not need my Credit Card details and he hung up.

Added to the impertinence of such calls–quite unsolicited–they can cause anxiety for some of us older folk. Struggling to reach a ringing telephone can be an upsetting business; all the more when its been to no purpose and often fraudulent.

This business is now well beyond a joke , I have reached the extent that I no longer answer the phone if I do not recognise the number displayed – so sometimes important medical calls are missed as a consequence!

It was suggested, by an ex caller, that we don’t try to be polite, as they are not… We are simply to hang up… It’s the ones that are rude or deceptive that get me. Or the ones that hang up as you answer because someone else answered first. The free boiler grant got me riled too. Scams all over the place. You get a free boiler, yes… But the supplier has the right to select the firm to install it… Scaffolds are just the beginning. Fine the lot of them…

marydoll says:
3 July 2016

I try to be polite as I accept that its someone just doing a job…but when they say it will only take a couple minutes of your time and your still on it 20 mins later; also now lot of them are using local codes, and I answer as I am thinking it could be my work, doctors or even a family member having to use another phone.. and even when they say they will take your name off their calling list, their calling you again the next day !!

I get nuisance calls at least 4 times 6 days a week. I block them, I ignore them. I would switch my landline off but my mum is ill so I need my phone’s on. So fed up with it. I’ve now had to tell friends and family, just to call and hang up, I’ll call them back. I just want it to stop.

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just fed up with the abouse of our phone numbers and the lies these people are saying. they are aggressive and disturbing. enough already

I get roughly 3/4 calls a day. It’s so annoying and an invasion of privacy. Makes no difference if you hang on and press the number not to receive any more, the still keep coming. Fed up. Should be stopped. The silent calls are worst.

Gov Harass says:
7 July 2016

I have received 8 unwanted calls so far and the day is not over yet! These go on from 0800 until 1000. Someone is hell bent in harassing me. I think this should be a police matter.