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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?


I don’t answer international or out of area calls but I am now regularly getting calls from mobile phones. Hacked off

It is an intrusion of our privacy and complete time wasting for people at home especially carers when they are stressed enough and the elderly just cannot cope with it thus it becomes harassment.

Peter Smith says:
31 August 2016

I agree these calls are pain but I have wishal and air air horn bye the phone that seems put them off and some time if I am in a silly mood I try to wine them up like I had my cut off and sutck back with super gule r if they trying sell some thing I tell that I am bank crup which seems to work.

Costas says:
31 August 2016

Peter, are you a 5 y/o? If not, please sort out your spelling & grammar. It’s appalling.

Costas, that’s very unfair and an insult to five year old’s, thanks

You don’t know; he maybe dyslexic or English may not be his first language or many other reasons. That could be highly insulting. The Bible gives wise advice saying “Judge not so that you are not judged”.

Costa … Are you always so damn rude ? did it ever occur to you that Peter may be elderly and not schooled when young . What he lacks in spelling ability you lack in manners

I was teaching an 80-year old who was severely dyslexic; his story is a classic case of being incapable of learning and not for lack of trying. He owns a stack (1.5″) of certificates for finishing one adult course after another in a desperate attempt to learn to read and write. Peter’s entry reminds me of his writing on a good day.

Keep it up Peter! Don’t let anyone hold you back!

Noddy says:
31 August 2016

Ha Ha Ha! You are right.

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Allan Scott says:
31 August 2016

As I work from home cold callers get short shrift. If it’s a number I don’t recognise – or is obviously an international call from a country where I don’t have family or friends – I always let it go to the answerphone. But the call itself disrupts my work in exactly the way you have described.

They are a time waisting nuisance

31 August 2016


Uri Liebrecht says:
31 August 2016

Holding the directors responsible is worth a try, however the majority of the nuisance calls I receive come from abroad, so I doubt whether this strategy would work.

(I don’t feel that causing discomfort to the person actually calling is much use, even if it does relieve our frustration. I’m sure these people would be in a better job if only one were available)

Perhaps exam the phone providers. They facilitate degradation of people’s lives.


I am retired and spend most of my time indoors. I find that I get more cold callers in total, than normal calls from friends etc.

Clare Lawrence says:
31 August 2016

I find that when I say TPS they aspologise or put down the phone immediately but it is still an intrusion! Well done for carrying on with this campaign.

i get 4 to 7 calls a week from BT yes sometimes 2 a DAY the phone number they use is 08000 445 265 when i phone back it is a answer phone yes i know i never win over BT

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Invariably nuisance calls are part of a scam whose only aim is to get your hard earned cash. If the’re not then they are trying to sell you something that you don’t really want. Either way they are dishonest, invasive, time wasting and often criminal in their intent. They should be entirely banned and outlawed. Many retirees such as myself would be forever grateful.

Susan Waughman says:
31 August 2016

I dont know good calls from nuisance calls anymore! they are getting so frequent in my house, sometimes I can make out & see the call is a strange mobile number.
often I look at the code first.. if I think its a land line number I pick it up.


l Mclaughlin says:
31 August 2016

I can just be rude to them when they pretend they are from microsoft or tell me I can get something ‘free’ and when we have the time, we wind them up, but I worry about the old and vulnerable who may fall for this – it’s not just the nuisance, but they could end up being robbed, in particular by the fake Windows ‘engineers’ who would put spyware on PC and steal identities etc so would like some way to prevent this which is more of a threat then cold callers just trying to sell something you don’t want. I don’t get see a solution to stopping these as most of them from the callers are based abroad. This will only go part way to deterring nuisance sellers of legitimate companies. having said them, one of those cheap Poundland airhorns is ideal for giving them a blast when they persist…had one that rung back 3 times in 15 minutes pretending to be called Sean though he sounded Asian . he got a blast which stopped calls for a couple of days…

I’ve had Sean ring me and Albert, Mike and a whole host of others who clearly are of Asian origin. I just tell them I am the cleaner and they soon hang up. As for the so called Windows engineers I just say I don’t have a computer. The air horn sounds good, must get one!!

Tracy says:
31 August 2016

I get about 6 calls a day, and either say hold on while I get the person and just leave them on the line or just bluntly rude to them it is very intrusive and as a sitter invariably wakes the babies up.

I tell the callers who normally are trying to sell me something I don’t want or need to get a proper job.

I joined TPS, but I still get some Nuisance calls, maybe 3 or 4 Daily – even Weekends if I am Home. If I want a particular Item or Service, I will actively do my Research & buy the best option for me. Nobody can sell me something that I do not want. These Companies should be Shut-down ASAP

How is it that these parasites are able to acquire a phone number that starts with my own local dialling code, which you feel obliged to answer in case it is relating to a local issue? If you try to phone the number back it usually just says the number is not recognized. With today’s technology, it should be quite possible to identify the source of the call, fine the directors, and then close the company down for the offence of harassment.

It is possible to spoof the calling line number.

Thank you for your reply, but you have not explained the best method of doing this,

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I have no idea what you are talking about. I understood that Fred Well was referring to a method of spoofing the fake caller when the call was made. From my original comment I should have thought that it was obvious that I want to destroy these Companies – not join them!!

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Duncan, that is why I asked the question because I did not understand his comment. I had wondered if there was a system that would cause great inconvenience to the original spoofers, in the hope that it may dissuade these low-life beings from continuing this practice. As I am now aware, if I would have to act in the same manner, I have no intention of participating.

I still wonder how they manage to acquire phone numbers, with local dialling codes, which appear on the surface to be legitimate. How about massive fines, and possible litigation, against the providers of the phone lines?

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Duncan, thank you very much for this very detailed reply – very interesting and informative. With your permission, I should like to copy this information to some other people who are determined to try and exterminate these rodents!! I would only do it with your permission, and with an acknowledgement to you and to Which Magazine. If you prefer otherwise, I fully understand. Thank you, Richard.

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Thank you, Duncan. I will confirm this with Which.

Hello Richard, so long as Duncan is happy with his comment being quoted elsewhere. Thanks

this campaign is about stopping unsolicited intrusions on one’s personal space… and it gratuitously carries an invitation to comment on HMG policy on obesity, and an invitation to switch supplier to cut energy bills
quod erat demonstrandum

irene says:
31 August 2016

i agree they should be stop they also seem to target older people more