/ Technology

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: why we’re blocking withheld numbers

Man looking at phone

On 16 May it will be a legal requirement for companies to provide a valid number when they call you. Here’s Baroness Neville-Rolfe to explain why.

Nuisance calls are irritating. So irritating in fact that nearly 170,000 complaints were made to the regulator – the Information Commissioner’s Office – on this issue last year alone.

We’ve already made it easier for rogue companies to be fined by reducing the need for the regulator to prove that substantial damage and distress has been caused by the calls. We’re also spending £1/2 million to provide call-blocking devices to vulnerable people.

Isolated and desperate

But this phenomenon can be far worse than a nuisance. In some cases people are being bombarded with confusing or aggressive calls. Some are conned into handing over money and others feel forced to unplug their phone.

This is maddening under the best of circumstances, but the phone is some people’s only form of communication, so they can be left totally isolated, desperate and at risk.

This has to stop.

Mandatory caller display

That’s why the Government is changing the law. Companies that make cold calls will have to show caller identification.

That means you can refuse to pick up a call if you don’t recognise the number. And if a company harasses you, you can take down their number and report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office. It can hit offenders with fines of up to £500,000. You can also report offenders to Ofcom, which can impose fines of up to £2m.

We’re sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies – nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.

Nuisance calls are a serious issue, which is why we have taken serious action

This is a guest contribution by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Intellectual Property. All opinions are her own, not necessarily those of Which?


Why doesn’t the Government have the balls to change the law to ALL COLD CALLING IS ILLEGAL?


What difference is showing a caller id going to make? Many numbers are not genuine, so how does the Government plan to identify them. How are you going to stop a company having many legal caller ids and rotating them so they are not considered a harassment.

These days, you cannot trust any cold caller is who they say they are and the end intention of these calls is to get money out of you one way or another.

Ian says:
4 May 2016

Seeing a number that you do not recognise is no more useful than seeing no number at all. The only time that seeing a number proves useful is when it is one that you already recognise.

The new rules will do nothing to cut cold calls. To be clear, the new rules require those who are breaking the law by making nuisance calls to reveal their number in order to make it easier to apprehend them.

Total nonsense.

Serial Complainer says:
16 December 2016

Many Cold Callers are now using ‘Virtual Telephone Numbers’, (such as provided by ‘VirtelUK’) these get around the law and call blocking equipment by providing a false number, often a ‘one-off’ which will appear as ‘Unobtainable’ if re-dialled . This renders the recent law completely ineffective. A far more intelligent approach is needed.


SC my callblocker blocks “unavailable ” numbers , “0” numbers -withheld numbers -international/out of area -VOIP/IP rogue callers -spam faxes-skype-PPI calls-number blasts -area codes-silent calls etc. I do agree its time the government puts an end to this but money counts first.


The Government could also enforce all telephone companies showing caller ids for free.


Most already do – TalkTalk & BT for example. You will have to ask for it as an ‘extra’, but the cost should be zero. Don’t forget though, you need a phone that can display a caller’s number – the cheapest don’t have that facility.


The cost is only zero with BT if you pay for line rental a year in advantage.

Ian says:
5 May 2016

If it is a number you do not recognise, seeing it gives you no more information than no number at all. This is looking at the wrong end of the problem.

If the caller insists you look at the number as proof the call is from e.g. your bank, then the CLI is probably fake and the person on the line is likely a scammer.

Tell me again how seeing a string of digits tells you anything at all?