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Update: 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’ 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.

Update: 25 October 2017

A call for action on nuisance calls took one step closer to becoming reality last night.

In the House of Lords, Peers voted 253 to 205, a majority of 48, in favour of a cross-party amendment that would see unsolicited calls banned.

The vote demonstrates a desire to protect the most vulnerable in society from these nuisance calls, described by one Lord as an ‘omnipresent menace’, that can prove harmful in a number of ways.

The government failed to win over critics by promising a future ban on such calls from claims management companies who cold call members of the public about pensions.

However, supporters of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill amendment want more immediate action given this growing problem.

We’re encouraged that Peers are pushing for action on nuisance calls and now it’s time for the government to step up and tackle the issue.

How do you feel about this news? Do you want to see more commitment from the government on the issues on nuisance calls?

B Martin says:
22 September 2016

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Alan Barnes says:
6 October 2016

These callers should be fined heavily.

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.


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 ?


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.


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

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

Margaret Greig says:
8 October 2016

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

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.]#

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.