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Should company directors be held responsible for nuisance calls?

Mobile phone graphic

Eight in ten people agree with our proposal to hold company directors personally accountable for nuisance phone calls. And it’s now more clear than ever why this is necessary.

Not so long ago I was in the middle of submitting an essay for a course I’ve been doing – I had 15 minutes to the deadline and was feeling a little flustered to say the least. And of course, my phone rang.

I looked down and saw it was an unknown number. I answered, and the person at the other end of the phone opened with ‘hello, I heard you’ve just been in a car accident and need to claim on your insurance?’ My reply? ‘I’m pretty sure I wasn’t, especially as I don’t own a car.’

The next sound I heard was the click of the person on the other end disconnecting.

Nuisance calls: top annoyance

It was no more than 30 seconds of my time, but with a deadline looming over me, it was incredibly annoying. And I know I’m not alone – I’ve read so many stories from people like you here on Which? Conversation. In fact, our latest research shows that eight in ten people with a home landline was called by a nuisance caller in May 2016.

I’ve now registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to try and fight back. Lots of people have been doing the same, yet only 5% of the people we asked have complained to an independent body about unsolicited calls or texts in the last 12 months. Why? The main reason is that they don’t think the calls or texts would reduce or that complaining wouldn’t do any good. However, we know that reporting nuisance calls can lead to significant fines from the Information Commissioners’s Office (ICO). The question is whether this is enough.

What we’ve done so far

We want to see company directors personally held to account if their company is found to be nuisance calling. This is backed by the public, with eight in ten people agreeing that such a move would be welcome.


Following our campaign to call time on nuisance calls, the Government and regulators have taken a number of actions to tackle this scourge such as mandatory caller ID and tougher fines from the ICO.

Why this doesn’t go far enough

However, of the 22 fines issued against companies since April 2015, only four have been paid in full. Two have been part-paid, and the remaining fines have not been paid at all, or the companies have gone bust.

That’s why we’re calling on the Government to introduce tougher action. Director level accountability should be introduced immediately to compliment the ICO’s existing powers. This will stop rogues stepping around the rules by closing one business and re-establishing another just to avoid the ICO’s fines.

Do you agree with our call for directors to be held personally accountable for nuisance calls? Tell me what you think in the comments and vote in our poll.


Comments
Guest
B Martin says:
22 September 2016

Company directors should each be fined £100 per nusicence call made by their company.

Guest
Carol Surtees says:
23 September 2016

I agree they should be fined and I would like the fine to be more, say £1,000. Now that would be an incentive to stop nuisance called.

Guest
W. Irwin says:
9 October 2016

This cancer of the phone lines needs to be culled and those responsible held fined personally to avoid the company pay scenario, say £500 per call.

Guest
Patricia Bright says:
28 September 2016

My time is precious to me every single minute l am not at work. l spend enough time holding on to be put through press one for this or two that and at times loads more to go through. While waiting always sorry for you inconvenience and you are important to us and lots of other stuff…………Those that answer eventuality are at work getting paid for how ever long it takes them to get back, l am not its my free time my day off. So either step up those responsible get more staff and pay up.
You like to be left alone and be doing what you what on your days off which is silly cos you don’t work just take the money. It never enters you head you are wasting my time and owe me a fortune. l should start charging you………….And the stress it causes knowing you have other things to do now sitting there for god knows how long. l hope l make myself clear. Never suffered stress in my entire life l know what it feels like now. My stress free life of how it was dealt with years ago was the best.

Guest
neil richards says:
2 October 2016

am ex directory and in tps but still get calls sometimes number with held half the time nobody there they are now piggy backing local area codes and on 1471 its says please hang up so its a bad thing to do if locals ring got to the stage we let it ring out and they never leave a message so its not worth bothering with is it

Guest
Alan Barnes says:
6 October 2016

These callers should be fined heavily.

Guest
Alan says:
6 October 2016

I am 66 years old. My remaining time in this life should not be spent answering unsolicited calls from companies I did not contact, with whom I wish no contact. If I require a service I will make a call and if I get a polite response I may do business with them. If people call me then there will be no business. Full stop. My life my choice.

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Guest

Absolutely agree Alan ,there seems to be a majority conscientious that something must be done and in my view its the government bringing out telecommunication legislation to force telephone companies to provide a means of blocking those calls as part of the service to the public as I dont see them forcing them to block them universally by themselves . Surely this is the basis of real democracy the voice of the people being heard and listened to and wasnt that what the Magna Carta was all about the FREEDOM of the English Common man to live his life in peace. — No man will be seized or imprisoned ,or stripped of his rights or possessions ,or outlawed or exiled or deprived of his standing in any other way ,nor will we proceed with force against him.or send others to do so ,except by lawful judgement of his equals or by law of the land . To no one will we sell ,to no one deny or delay RIGHT or Justice–and how much of that is left in 2016 ?

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Guest

You are right, Duncan, but no one had a telephone in 1215, so the Barons didn’t put Cold Calling in the Magna Carta. Complete lack of foresight.

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Guest

Had to laugh at that John I like your sense of humor ,keep it up.

Guest
kevin says:
7 October 2016

if the company gets fined where dose the money go if it goes to the government then its not doing any good it should go to worthy courses say cancer, or for the blind dogs something like that BUT IT WONT THE GOVERNMENT GETS IT so its no good doing it

Guest
Margaret Greig says:
8 October 2016

Some of them you can’t understand all of them drive me crazy.

Guest
Donald McKenzie says:
8 October 2016

it wont make any difference to fine the Companies they will just use the usual system that show number withheld and you wont be able to track them down.]#

Guest
clare hiscock says:
8 October 2016

I am 84 have a husband who has carers four times a day, other
times I have to do everything for him. Which means being
on my feet quite a lot. Have only a land line phone, answering
what is a nuisance call is devastating when you have just sat down.
Also like to eliminate by big fines those putting advertisement on my
Email which I have not asked for – I spam them all but they keep
coming back like a song.

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Guest

Clare I too am a carer so I know what you have to go through, have you thought about getting a better email client ? or do you go direct to the email website ? What is your email service ? Can you afford a call-blocker , the carers can still phone you , I know as I get called by the Social Work sometimes.

Guest
Shirley says:
9 October 2016

All calls including calls from overseas should be traceable.so fed up with the verbal abuse when i ask them not to call again.what do you have to stop this and we are registered with the TPS,

Guest
Neville George says:
9 October 2016

I get calls from TalkTalk so it seems , Indian called Martin, he was told not to ring my number again as I was X directory and I put the phone down. Two minutes later he called again, this time I told him if he called again I would one day find him and kill him…there was a click and the phone went dead. Later in the same day yet another call from India about my traffic accident, so I played the game and said which one, the one in the 64 tonne Chieftain tank I commanded in Germany back in 1983 because that is the only one I had been in and I wasn’t driving but because I was the commander I was responsible….there was a pregnant silence and you knew he was trying think a way around that one..the phone clicked and it went dead.
I have two relatives that don’t have mobiles and the only reason we have a landline otherwise it would be in the bin.

Guest
paul beard says:
9 October 2016

these people are a damn nuisance, I know they have to advertise to look after their business, but there are enough advertising outlets about without direct contact…theres enough advertising about…in fact we are bombarded by it every day…it doesn’t make me buy anything…the complete opposite in fact, the government should make it illegal to your own home !

Guest
Francis 3P. Maxwell says:
9 October 2016

I also hate withheld numbers ! if they are not prepared to say who they are, even if I owe them money, I will not answer !!!!

Guest
Andy Cunningham says:
9 October 2016

It won’t help. When you ask for the company details they hang up.

Unless you ban cold calling, withheld numbers, and make all phone numbers traceable to the company registration behind them, this is utterly unenforceable.

I will not do business with companies that cold call, and in person calls are even worse. Someone knocked on the door recently and asked me if I wanted my driveway resurfaced. “Yes, as a matter of fact I do, which company are you from?”. After I get the company details I then tell them I refuse to deal with companies who cold call me, so I’ll find someone else to do the work, but at least I know to avoid you now.

Guest
Steve Hill says:
10 October 2016

Company directors should be obliged to publish their personal home and mobile phone numbers if they break the law.

Then we can respond in kind.

Guest
Keith Miller says:
12 October 2016

I get fed up when I am at the bottom of the garden and the phone rings and I run back to answer it just to have the likes of some prat selling Double Glazing or insurance etc or right in the middle of a meal time and they never take NO for an answer and try to keep you on the line.

Guest
Gwen says:
12 October 2016

When you answer a phone call from one of those call you should ask for their phone number and you will ring them back later on, there is no way they will give you their phone number.

Guest
David Caudle says:
15 October 2016

Problem is that most seem to be from a call centre in India, or somewhere like that; very difficult to tie down the source. And, if I understand correctly, there is no UK jurisdiction over calls from outside the UK.

Guest
Mr Geoffrey Bailey says:
16 October 2016

If you say No to call and that number is rung again by these people a reverse call charge of $250 should apply.

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Guest

I know of two guys in Britain Mr. Geoffrey who changed their number to a chargeable business line so that those salescalls were costing the companies money . Believe it or not —they was vilified in the national media and attempts taken to find out if it was illegal , granted they made some money out of it , but it shows you who,s side the British media are on — the harassing callers side.

Guest
maggie renshaw says:
16 October 2016

I have stopped answering my house phone because of cold callers

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Guest

And thats sad Maggie , all down to rampart commercialism destroying the lives of the British public. This will build up to a point where the public will say-enough already ! and use their suffering at the hands of greedy businesses to make their point at the next general election . Visible action is required not “nice words ” .

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Guest

The British public have said “enough already” ten times over but nothing much has changed for the better. The same stories have been repeated time and time again in Which? Conversation and in other media going back several years. General elections come and go but this issue is not a tipping point. Inland cold-calling has no doubt diminished significantly but international cold-calling has expanded to fill the void, and it is of a more pernicious kind because it is usually for criminal purposes. I didn’t mind the occasional call from a local company pushing their products or services; these have virtually dried up now, which is good. The next phase was the parasitic cold-calling looking for victims who could be milked through a compensation claim, or could be miss-sold some financial product; these seem to have died down but not gone away completely. Now people are being plagued by ruthless criminal scams through misrepresentation, false pretences, lies, and deception that allow the perpetrators to fraudulently gain access to their life savings or to invade their computer. So the (relatively) mild and inoffensive commercial calls have gradually been replaced by the cruel and grossly offensive cold calls we hear about today. The law has dealt with the easy bit of the problem – the rampant commercialism – but left the population more exposed than ever to the hard part – the criminal exploitation. Meanwhile people have been spending huge amounts of money on call-blocking technology or suffering an alteration in their lifestyle, as Maggie Renshaw states above, and, of course, if things carry on like this the Regulator will be able to tick the ‘Job Done’ box as “the problem has gone away”.

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Guest

if,as you say John internal sales calls are over ( I remain to be convinced ) and you say its international and that word has the British government holding up their hands and saying -not me gov, and telephone companies saying the same, then you might have forgotten a good while ago I gave the answer — America – yes the US has that solved (for a price ) . Remember a company I mentioned -TrapCall, and thats just one of many, look up their website not just marketeers but scam robocalls /blocked calls and much more -YOU can see who they are before you answer . Now ask yourself –if the US can have a private company intercept US exchange equipment interrogate it and get an answer WHY cant ours ?? I will tell you why they wont allow the British public the power to do it. Not because it is “impossible” just ask GCHQ what they can do , the latest secret info on them is that they are top of the league for hacking other countries worldwide even more than the NSA because with the new “snooping charter ” being so vaguely written they can do what they want when the NSA is held back by US government regulation , one UK citizen ,named on freedom websites, is at this minute being held in a London holding cell for —— encrypting his blog on a website – that constitutes contravening the UK Terrorism Act , and thats a fact ! So I don’t want to hear –its impossible from anybody , reality says differently .

Profile photo of John Ward
Guest

As I said, Duncan, inland sales calls have “virtually dried up now”. That is my experience, but I still get occasional ones from local firms and I point out to them that they are in breach of the law.

As you will know from many previous contributions, I have always maintained that there is a strategic technological solution to this problem that does not require the subscriber to pay any money, buy any apparatus, use special codes, or give up the enjoyment of their telephone. The reasons why it has not been implemented are debatable but I have no idea how it would cramp GCHQ’s operations. It is widely known that GCHQ is the most capable electronic surveillance organisation on earth and could find a work-around to any impediment that BT might put in its way in order to trace and quell cold calls.

Guest
Carol Gardner says:
16 October 2016

I spent 13 years in a call centre now I am retired all I do is answer the phone. Its like being back at work. The Company I worked for did not call customers they called us if they wanted anything

Guest
Carol Ponting says:
18 October 2016

Lonely elderly or disabled housebound younger people struggle to their landline hoping a loved one might talk to them. It is so cruel to make nuisance calls!

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Guest

Exactly Carol !! .

Guest
Julie says:
19 October 2016

How about you give out the Company directors home and mobile phone no. to as many ppi , accident claims, utility change companies etc as possible . I suggest evening and weekend calls.

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Guest

Julie, much as I sympathise but its not something I think Which would totally approve of. A year or more ago a certain company that was causing great public distress whose offices were in Glasgow I managed to locate the CEO home address in a remote area north of Helensburgh , Scotland , a nice sea loch with beautiful views of the mountains ,serene , quiet (apart from the submarine nuke base further south ) . The CEO kicked up %$£*& and I was censured for divulging the phone number .

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Guest

For the first time, a nuisance marketing call has helped me.

I have run a website for a small charity since 1995. When we started to get spam email and nuisance calls I realised that our contact details had been ‘harvested’, so I converted the page to an image and posted that online. Until very recently, this worked very well.

Recently I have been receiving daily emails offering goods and services, sent to our enquiries email address, which I would normally forward to the most relevant people in the society to deal with. I had an a phone call today and it was someone who had already sent an email about a software product for charities. I asked the caller where they had got our email address and was told that the Heritage Lottery Fund had passed it on. Our society had helped put together a successful Lottery bid, although this was submitted by the landowner. I’m hoping that we can get further Lottery funding so I guess that I’m going to have to put up with nuisance phone calls and spam. At least I now know why I’m getting them. 🙁

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Guest

Wavechange-found the relevant parts of the conditional contract you are obliged to have in your dealings with HLF its under= Traffic patterns /Site statistics but more relevant- Transfer to third parties —- this may involve transferring or selling your information to other companies , inside or outside the EU . The mind boggles at the US/Africa/India /etc Cr%p you will get .

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Guest

That has really made my day. 🙁 It is a wildlife and heritage project with various partners, but HLF don’t allow partnership bids, so the owners (a company with charitable status) had to submit the bid. They must have included our contact details, though I don’t recall giving my permission. If the emails persist I can easily change our email address from enquiries@ but it looks as if HLF may be circulating my landline number. 🙁

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Guest

Circulating your landline number Wavechange ? -now that to me is serious for a man in your position let alone members of the public .If I was you I would use your influence with the “authorities ” to help you . Just backs up my constant criticism of the old high standards of British values going “down the tubes ” for the sake of commercialism. I have “standby email addresses in case of similar situations ,but it is a major hassle if you communicate worldwide with other organisations . I have two very secure ones I dont use unless in emergency ,so secure one was DDoS attacked not by normal hackers but was by “you know who ” because of both end encryption methods and double ( two stage ) passwords that even the server owners dont know the second one ( European server ) . I also have another two that can be for normal use. If you can prove they are doing that maybe you could “lean on them ” as your word will have much higher prestige than most of us,

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Guest

I am hoping that the callers are just looking up my number on our website when I had ignored their emails. The lady I spoke to yesterday mentioned that I had not replied to email. I will wait and see what happens but I’m glad that I have found why people are getting in touch with me.

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Guest

When I posted my real name years ago I was inundated with rubbish emails/scammers /etc but after a few years they got fed up I never replied to them and I never will or click on them .

Guest
jon fox says:
21 October 2016

I am plagued by Asian sounding conmen claiming to be Talk Talk helping me fix problems with my computer. I say the most vicious and personally disgusting things to them , concerning their or my anatomy and they then hang up. When their script makes them ask “how are you today” I enjoy myself telling them in intimate detail every disgusting and noxious thing I can think of. All is fair in love and war and it is a war on these scumbags, which I wage with relish, since that is all I am able to achieve without effective laws to jail them and their bosses. Forget fines, jail them and THEN they will stop.

Guest
jacky says:
21 October 2016

I registered with the Telephone Preference Service and the Mail Preference Service about 6 years ago. I don’t fill in my phone number or address on any internet site and my nuisance calls are down to two or three a year and I get very little junk mail thank goodness. At one point they were aggravating the heck out of me. I recommend signing up to these sites. We shouldn’t have to do that to stop being harrassed in our own homes though and I do think company directors should be held personally accountable for these breaches of our privacy. Good luck to anyone who tries to hit them financially!

Guest
Hev Gippa says:
21 October 2016

When I get a cold call on my mobile, I logged it in as ”C**k and Bull” so the next time they call I answer it as ”C**k and Bull”!!!!!!! I am thinking of answering as a criminal being interrupted in a crime, hahahaha! The possibilities are endless……………..

Guest
Ray Hill says:
22 October 2016

The worst lot of all the eco energy sales mob, along with those from INTERNATIONAL calls. It must be possible to block unwanted calls , come on BT lead the way and show you are about more than money making, put customer service first for the old uns.

Guest
nesta Jones says:
22 October 2016

One way to get rid of Nuisance Calls is to Talk to them in my 1st Language which they don’t Understand, It works every time, But it’s the getting up to answer the Phone in itself is an annoyance!

Guest
mick says:
23 October 2016

[Sorry Mick, your comment has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Guest
jane paterson says:
23 October 2016

hate when people come on the phone there is no need and I wounder how they get your number when you are ex directory

Guest
Castle says:
23 October 2016

According to the BBC:- “Nuisance call bosses to face £500,000 fines” from Spring 2017; although the report actually says ” up to” £500,000.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37743001

Guest
Ian Chesterman says:
6 November 2016

Directors should, of course, be held responsible for their Company’s actions but by a charge against their personal assets as, in the past, it has been all too easy to close one Company and open up another next day through a simple cheap registration with Companies House. Maybe it is Company Law that needs changing too to prevent these serial fraudsters operating!!!