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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?

Mary Winterflood says:
30 August 2016

I have better things to do than have my time wasted by these callers

A Layman says:
30 August 2016

Companies have no feelings or moral identity, By all means, make directors liable but punish also the operative who commit the actual offences,
And fines can be bought off; they’re only money. Restriction of liberty surely is appropriate.

I have got so tired of nuisance calls I unplugged my landline , which I still have to pay monthly rental for..
Something needs to be done to stop these calls.

I don’t care what action the government take so long as it is effective. To date, any legislation that has been introduced to block these calls has been totally ineffective. We can send a man to the moon, or Mars, but nothing so far can block a nuisance call. Why is that? They really are a nuisance, entailing endless trips to the phone, running down stairs, in from the garden, just about managing to snatch the phone off the hook before it stops ringing, only to find it is rubbish call. Urrrgh!!!

Reuben Charlton says:
30 August 2016

Sometimes I tell them that I cannot speak English and ask them if they speak German, in German. If asked a specific question such as what is my age I may tell them it is 500 years or so adding that is how long it will take them to sell me something. Or I might just hold the phone in silence until they give up. It can provide a lot of fun, wastes their time and better still money , during which they cannot be bothering other people. It seems to work as I do not seem to get many such calls as I used to. Try it. I am sure you can think up some of your own ideas. Have fun at their expense.

I view these ‘nuisance’ calls as a gross invasion of my privacy. My telephone number should be contractually a personal effect between a) My provider and myself and b) Available to only those to whom I elect to inform. It should not ever have been made available to anyone else nor should they presume that they have the ‘right’ to use it by calling me. I pay (as we all do) for the number that they assume they can use as a means to sell their products or services .The whole scam should be made illegal and anyone contacting me with an unsolicited call should pay me for my time (in answering),plus a fine for the disturbance or interruption they have caused. Additionally these ‘call centres’ fail to identify themselves as and when I do answer- have no idea as to my name- the whole problem is the epitome of ignorance, bad manners, and is as unwanted as a dose of ebola.

Every time I get one of these calls I add the number to my JUNK contact list, so that I just ignore the call . Unfortunately the offices making such calls often have multiple telephone numbers or uses different offices so it only reduces some of the calls.

Geoff Doe says:
30 August 2016

It O.K, saying that by cold calling it generates 000’s pounds, but i have never wanted my details given out, HOW THE HELL DO THEY GET THEM, even councils have created 2 electoral data spread sheets, so they themselves the bloody council can sell my details, they make a profit, i get sh*t. STOP IT NOW.

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I was getting lots of nuisance calls on mobile phone, mostly companies making out I had a car accident in the previous (I don’t currently have a car). What was really annoying was that they called during work time. I usually told them where to get off in no uncertain terms and then I signed up to the Telephone Preference Service. The calls have considerably lessened since then but have not been completely eradicated. I agree strongly that bosses of these companies need to be held responsible. Nobody likes getting these calls and they are people trying to get your bank details. I think it is criminal and those responsible must be taken to task.

How do these people get our numbers especially seeing as I’ve had to change mine only 2 weeks ago. I don’t give out my number to just anyone and I certainly don’t appreciate it when I am busy and I get one of those cold calls. Tell them you’re busy and it’s like ‘so what, we are more important than what you’re doing ‘.

The Directors should be hung drawn then quartered like the good old days, even that would be too good for them in my opinion

Heads on spikes then, Ed. Oh for the olden days and the Witch Hunter General, deportation, public hangings, the guillotine………how we miss proper justice.

No . . . they should be made to sit down and write individual apology letters in longhand to everyone whom they have cold-called and post them First Class at their own expense.

…and then garrotted?

Susan Maxwell says:
30 August 2016

If they do not pay their fines, prison sentences would seem to be in order, and be fair, for senior executives or owners of these companies.

I have been receiving calls from Nexbridge Communications for months now well the last year or so now, I have emailed the company who said they sorted it – not. I have phoned them at their head office who have said sorted again – not. I have joined the asked BT to stop these called – sorted they say but not as still receiving them. It keeps showing as a local number and I have been nice, rude, swore at them but they still keep calling me. They are driving me round to twist………..

When I lived in the city, I had many nuisance calls, I needed a new phone, so the phone company sold me one that the numbers came up on the screen, brilliant as if I did not know it, I never answered and it went on the answering machine or they put the phone down.
Now I live in the country I hardly get any but did have one last week and had great fun in answering his questions with a question, I enjoyed it.

A lot of calls received are obviously fraudulent. Like Microsoft calling to say my computer is infected or BT informing me that my line is being disconnected (I don’t have BT).
When I asked for my supplier to block international calls – they said that they were unable to do so (not true).
However, if we are allowed to block in international calls, it will stop a lot of elderly individuals being defrauded out of there life savings and do wonders for the economic as call centers move back to the UK.

Just block international or anonymous calls if we ask!

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Christopher Bowers says:
30 August 2016

I continually receive unsolicited calls, mainly on my mobile, even though it is registered with the TCS.

Davros says:
30 August 2016

If Directors are responsible for the running of the company, they are also responsible for the methods and conduct of that business as undertaken by their employees. There is no other way of looking at it.

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Graham says:
31 August 2016

I have never had a call on my landline but plenty on my mobile. I’m with Tesco mobile the day after regestered my sime got call from O2 try to sell me mobile plane, when asked where they got my number was told your with Tesco arnt you they use our service, told em not interested never had another call. We need to stop companys selling our numbers by law both landline and mobile. this would also go long way to stopping these calls.

Andrew says:
31 August 2016

My mum and dad who are elderly are so tired of nuisance calls that they no longer answer the phone. My dad has a head injury and just cannot scope with the constant calling. It is no exaggeration to say that they get about six or seven calls a day. I wish this practice would end.

It is time for legislation, I like many others have signed up not to receive calls or post, but they still keep rolling in. If I kept going into someones garden and stole fruit and vegetables the law would be on my neck.