The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today published its nuisance calls report. In this guest post, the Committee’s Chairman, John Whittingdale MP, outlines their recommendations.
Most of the time, an unsolicited marketing call is, at best, an unwanted nuisance. People who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service are particularly annoyed – and rightly so – when they receive marketing calls from individuals and organisations unknown to them.
An offshoot of the Direct Marketing Association, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), can do nothing more than provide a slap on the wrist to offending callers, while its overseer, the Direct Marketing Commission, is hamstrung by an inability to gain access to relevant information because of data protection provisions. It is left to the Information Commissioner to take action; he does so all too rarely even when the TPS is able to identify the nuisance caller.
The Direct Marketing Commission has shown a willingness, at least in principle, to get involved and badger those who break the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations. We should support them in this endeavour; allowing them to share relevant information would be a start. Serial and serious offenders could then be targeted by the Information Commissioner who has real enforcement powers. He needs to use these much more often.
Making nuisance call complaints
The communications regulator, Ofcom, has started to respond to the growing problem of nuisance calls but, so far, it has limited itself to dealing with a tiny fraction of silent and abandoned calls. Many of these are the result of automated diallers in call centres. Like the ICO, Ofcom needs more information and greater incentives to tackle the problem.
People who receive nuisance calls – and millions of us do – need to have the means to report them to the relevant regulator. BT’s recent decision to charge explicitly for its basic caller display service is a deeply regrettable indication and we hope they will reconsider it; the same can be said of other communications service providers who likewise charge.
Finally, consumers don’t need a single regulator. What they should have is a single point of contact. Which? has shown initiative in providing a useful tool that points consumers to the relevant regulator. However, a single simple online complaints form which can be automatically directed for appropriate response would be better. And the 15% of the population without internet access, many of them in vulnerable groups, should have a single telephone number they can call. This nuisance call complaints line should be advertised, naturally enough, on the bill we pay.
So what happens next? The Government must respond to my Committee’s report within 60 days. However, we’re also expecting the Government to soon publish an Action Plan on what it proposes to do for the millions who are fed up with nuisance calls and texts.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from John Whittingdale MP, Chairman for the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on nuisance calls. All opinions expressed here are John’s own, not necessarily those of Which?