/ Technology

TalkTalk: why we launched a nuisance calls blocking service

Landline phone

One way to stop the scourge of nuisance calls is to block them before your phone even rings. In this guest post, TalkTalk’s CEO explains how and why they’ve introduced a service to block calls at a network level.

Anyone who’s ever received persistent scam or marketing calls will agree that it is a menace and not something we should have to put up with.

Customers I talk to tell me that getting calls from suspected scammers, along with aggressive marketing calls, are one of the more stressful experiences they encounter.

This echoes research by Which?, who found that eight in 10 people received an unsolicited call on their landline last month, with one third saying they’ve felt intimidated by such calls. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be like this.

Technology exists to tackle the problem head on, and this is why earlier this month TalkTalk became the first phone provider to allow customers to identify nuisance callers, report them and, in certain cases, block them at a network level if there is evidence of misconduct that breaches a strict set of rules.

How does it work?

The service allows TalkTalk homes to report suspected scam or nuisance callers for investigation. Two key categories that the team block are:

  • Repeat likely scam calls: for example, where a customer has received more than 10 calls from the offending number in the past 7 days and if when calling back the number is unobtainable (and not the official BT service message) or cannot be identified by its voicemail or IVR message, TalkTalk might block this number. These are often scam calls.
  • Nuisance Sales & Marketing calls: excessive and persistent cold calls from call centre operators or automated recorded messages, for example those that call in excess of 30 calls to a customer within 7 days. During a recent trial of the service, the team received reports of companies calling customers over 65 times in a week.

Each investigation can include assessing how frequently that number has called the customer, whether there are multiple complaints about the number, and calling the number to identify the originator.

What else are we doing?

As well as enabling customers to report suspected wrongdoers, it’s important to provide a range of tools to empower those at the receiving end of the calls. TalkTalk homes receive free caller display, as well as more advanced optional features like anonymous caller reject. This is supported with advice on ways our customers can manage unwanted calls.

Like Which?, I believe that it’s time nuisance calls are consigned once and for all to history. I’m pleased with the focus the issue is receiving in Parliament and our new service has even been welcomed by Ed Vaizey, Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and backed by politicians including Mike Crockart MP.

There’s certainly a great deal more that can be done and we would encourage other ISPs to follow our lead to help prevent British homes from becoming victims to nuisance calls.

Would you like your provider to introduce a nuisance call blocking service?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk. All opinions expressed here are Dido’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


All this is is one big advert for TalkTalk. I hope they paid you for this Which?

Hello Lee, we don’t accept advertising on Which? Conversation. We often publish guest posts from companies or well-knowns. In this case we’re happy to host a piece from TalkTalk as the company has done the right thing by consumers. We’d like to see other companies taking action against nuisance calls, and this is a step in the right direction. Thanks.

You know I am a fan of Which? Patrick. But I have read the full post and this is what I have got from it:

“Anyone who’s ever received persistent scam or marketing calls will agree that it is a menace” That is not true. No need to paint every person with the same brush. I like them as I make money from them as we all know and it’s old news. But some people find them fun too. I admit only 1-2% of us like them. But TalkTalk have said “Anyone ” and this is not the case.

” TalkTalk homes receive free caller display,” In other words “I have read you all hate BT for now charging for this, come to us and you can have it free”

While I do enjoy reading posts on this website I do feel you have sold yourself to TalkTalk for this advert and it is upsetting.

I disagree. TalkTalk seems to be a market leader in network-level filtering, both with phone calls and internet, albeit two very different technologies. Given the scale of the problem and TalkTalk’s lead in tackling the issue, it does merit a page here. Whilst it is encouraging to hear that TalkTalk is doing this, it wouldn’t encourage me to return to TalkTalk, where I experienced the worst ever customer service for a year and then left as soon as I could. When I next move home, I’m going to try to avoid having a physical phone line and instead receive fixed line calls via VoIP on a Flextel 020 number that I have bought at no cost to myself. Only friends and family will have my 020 number and I will give my 0845 and 0871 numbers to businesses (as Lee does).

I was with TalkTalk a few years ago too and they are the wost company I have ever been with. It was so bad I moved to TalkTalk Business just so I could speak to someone in the UK. (I am with Plusnet now as I love Yorkshire).

At least Dido Harding is not flogging a nuisance calls phone.

I have been a Talk Talk customer for many years, first as Tiscali BB and for several years as a phone and BB customer. I have never had a problem with my phone but do suffer BB problems about twice a year. Trying to get things resolved by their call centre is hard work. I now go straight to the Forum and it is a joy to deal with their forum staff.

A couple of weeks ago I had to take on a BT problem for a friend who was having no luck in getting his phone back in working order after it was out of action for over a week. It was also out of service for a week a few weeks earlier. I started off talking to their call centre and there was no difference between their customer service and the Talk Talk call centre. Both were just terrible and a long way away from the service their CEO’s think we are receiving. I eventually found an email address for a Gavin Patterson of BT, sent an email, and my friend was contacted by someone from head office, within an hour, and his phone was working the next day, after an engineer visited the junction box in the road.. I have also contacted Dido Harding in the past and she put me in touch with someone who helped resolve an issue. We should not have to go to the top of a company when we are dissatisfied with service, there should be a customer services manager we can contact when the call centre are unable to help.

Chris Gosling says:
22 November 2013

Did you know that BT owns Plusnet?

While BT do own Plusnet they are there own company are Plusnet. There 100000% better than BT,

I was having these calls daily, the last time was 3 weeks ago, I said to this person that this call was recorded & you are harrassing me, if these calls do not stop the police will be given this recorded tape and you will be prosecuted, it seems to have worked, I’ve not had a call since.

“Would you like your provider to introduce a nuisance call blocking service?” Yes, but I’d like it to do way more than what Talk Talk are offering.

One call is one call to many for me. I certainly wouldn’t want to wait for 30 calls to me before action is taken. Just had another silent call whilst typing this 🙁

What I’d like to see happen is every time you get a nuisance call, be it sales, scam, silent, recorded or whatever, I’d like to be able to enter a code through my phone (either during or immediately after the call) and when my provider gets 100 different people entering the code for the same caller, that caller’s calls get routed to a premium rate number telling them they’ve been reported for nuisance calls and to stop calling. The caller details then passed on to whichever ineffective regulator is in charge of that type of call.

Just had another silent call whilst typing this 🙁

William, that’s exactly how I’d like it to work too, although I don’t understand the premium rate number part. Who would fund the cost of forwarding a call to a premium rate number and what would be the purpose of this? The caller is paying only for a call to an 01 or 02 number and will only ever be billed according to the number called. Therefore the cost of call forwarding can only be at the called party’s expense and never at the caller’s expense.

As many nuisance calls are from companies completely ignoring the TPS or the spirit that its falling so far from. I can’t see why they can’t be billed for their nuisance call. It would work in many the same way that a scam call, suggest you press 9 to un-subscribe but they re-route you to a more expensive line without your knowledge. If they can do it way can’t it be done to them? If they don’t like it then the solution is simple, stop making nuisance calls.

The incoming call scam to which you refer works on a reverse charge call where you press a digit to accept the charges on the incoming call but without this being made clear to you. On outgoing calls, callers can be billed only for the called number and the call’s duration. It works this way all over the world, and given that many nuisance calls originate from outside the UK, this cannot be changed.

Scammers always have it easy. Guess I drop that part of my cunning plan then.

I believe that someone at one of the Parliamentary hearing on nuisance calls alluded to True Call trying to interest BT and other providers in this type of system. I think you would be able to press a code to alert your provider to an unwanted call, just as William stated. I don’t know if any of the MP’s followed up on this but I’m sure someone said they wanted to hear more. Perhaps Dido Harding could tell us if True Call have been in touch.

HateScammers says:
7 April 2016

1477 is your answer. This logs the last caller as malicious, and I consider all such calls as malicious.

Can we now expect BT to introduce a similar service and then start charging for it? Or maybe they will NOT charge for it because we are already paying for Caller ID. Yeah, right! More money for BT.

I would not change toTalkTalk for any reason. Those of my friends who are with TalkTalk all say that the service (and especially their call centers) are spectacularly atrocious.

Dr Bob says:
18 November 2013

I don’t think any of the above protects you from “no. withheld calls”, overseas calls & calls from 00 00 00 (what’s that all about?) What is going to be done about these calls…. which I find are the most common.

The “0” or “00…” type numbers that show on my caller display always get through all the Talk Talk anonymous caller reject and blocked numbers bars because you cannot block these ! These are the one’s that need blocking the most though as they are the scammers and con artists waiting to rip you off.

As soon as I hear an Indian accent on my phone I place the receiver down now as they caught me out twice before, two years apart. Once pretending to be from Microsoft and once from Talk Talk.
They knew I had reported a fault on my internet and so pretended to be from those companies under the guise of helping me repair the problem. These were not random calls.
I logged into my computer to let the guy remotely make the necessary repairs. I was a mug for allowing it to happen because I was not sure what he was doing, probably looking for my bank details! Eventually he told me he had found the faults, that my computer was running extremely slow and was about to crash, he could fix it if I paid £60 over by Western Union online and sent me a link. As only an idiot would do I went ahead and paid as the guy had been working online for 45 minutes for me. I kept asking if he was from Talk Talk and he kept telling me he was. He then handed the control of the computer back and we hung up. I was completely taken in. Needless to say, there was no difference in the internet connection at all, the problems were the same as before and still are. It was then that I realised I had been fleeced and there was nothing I could do about it. On calling Talk Talk they told me they do not call customers about reported faults online. I asked how this could happen then and was told that some staff in India have hacked into the database and sold the information on to scammers that are contacting customers who have reported faults and are scamming them. Simple as that!
I would have thought Talk Talk would warn it’s customers of these scams but they are publicly keeping very quiet understandably so as this gives them a bad name.
It did happen again, but when they wanted remote control of the computer I remembered the first time it happened and refused to pay. I was sworn at and made to feel bad. Now whenever I hear those voices on my phone I cut them off. I know not all Indians are crooks but these scammers are giving them all a bad name as far as I am concerned!

I have all the extras possible on my phone that Talk Talk say stops these nuisance callers but the overseas callers keep getting through. I am also registered with the TPS but they also only target UK callers. It is the foreign callers we want to stop but there is no equipment available to do this I am told.

On Talk Talk, Anonymous Caller Reject only blocks withheld callers from within the UK. You need to be aware that using this service means that your Doctors surgery and other service providers cannot contact you by phone as you cannot pick and choose, it is a blanket block on all withheld numbers.
The Last Number Block List only blocks up to 10 numbers at a time. You dial a code into the phone during or just after a nuisance call to block them calling back. It only works on UK numbers again and will not recognise any “0” or “00…” type numbers. Once you reach the 10 number limit the earlier numbers are deleted on each new number added to the list.
Both of these extras are free to Talk Talk customers but they only work on UK numbers.

What Talk Talk must do is make it easier for it’s customers to speak with a Customer Services advisor when they need to and to make an Email Address available. If you click on the “Contact Us” buttons on their website you end up going around in circles and not getting anywhere, least of all an email contact address. It is extremely hard to find a contact form for the subject you want to contact them about either. There is no alternative but to use the wrong form in most cases. They take over a week to get back to you also. Sometimes 10 days to two weeks which is not acceptable. They really need to improve this part of the business to support their customers.

Pete Jones says:
18 November 2013

I would like to see a way of automatically reporting calls (e.g. dialling 121 during the call) and for the network to identify the patterns and to act rather than always putting the onus on the bill payer to report it (if they can find the way to do it). I have had one or two a day each day for the past 2 weeks right on meal times and I suspect the caller is doing the same to 200 people an hour. Why should one person have to receive 10 or 30 calls in a week before they take action? I can tell you that two is annoying enough for me never to buy from the company who are calling ever again.

The article mentions “the team received reports of companies calling customers over 65 times in a week”

Can’t these companies be a) named and shamed or b) just shut down and the directors sent to a prison in Peru.

I think it’s good that a provider is doing something about nuisance calls without charging us for the service. Dido Harding, you are not planning on charging us, are you?

I have not suffered from nuisance calls for a long time but when I received them, they were silent and from a cloaked number. something like 0000054. If I receive over 10 marketing calls in a week I would like TT to take action, 30 calls seems excessive. Also I’m not clear if TT can do anything when the callers real number is not visible. Perhaps all out phone companies should refuse to carry or connect calls where they are unable to identify the originating number.

Figgerty, “30 seems excessive” wrong! Its a diabolical intrusion.
BT eventually gave me Caller Display for free after months of complaining.
If they charge me I leave

TalkTalk do offer customers the ability to block calls, but at a price!
It costs around £4 per month to block withheld numbers, but if you want to block specific numbers, up to a maximum of ten, (e.g. 000000 which some marketing / scamming lines use) then you have to register for another service as well, so you end up paying monthly for two services which totals £7 per month.
Fine if you think £7 is worth it, but it seems expensive to me for activating a facility that is already in their exchange – if BT can give their broadband and phone customers free sport, why can’t Talktalk give its customers free call blocking / barring?

Dave, I agree that 30 is way too much.

Tam, I don’t see the point of call blocking specific numbers unless it’s someone you know and they are being a nuisance, Most scam or nuisance callers cloak or change their number ff only by a digit, so your soon use up your ten blocks. If the telephone companies are serious about helping their customers avoid nuisance or scam calls they must not benefit financially.

£48 or £84 per year is extortionate for blocking nuisance calls; there should be no charge. Don’t be fooled by charges being quoted monthly which disguises the magnitude of the charge for a zero-cost service.

Abbeydave says:
18 November 2013

I ignore all cals which don’t show as a number recorded in my ‘phonebook.
If a message is left, I’ll listen to it – if not, nothing’s lost.
I ceertainly don’t get upset about the matter.

My answerphone is on permanently, even though I also have Caller ID. All my friends & family know that I won’t pick up if I don’t know who’s calling – some find it irritating, but that’s tough. I also notify anyone else I’m expecting a call from – companies/DWP/Tax office etc – ‘Speak up and I’ll pick up’ Simples.

John M says:
22 November 2013

I’m currently with BT for my calls and BB. The VERY LAST company I would turn to would be Talk Talk. Their customer care service is like a John Cleese company training comedy on how not to please customers. Talk Talk recently clod called my front door. This is despite a cast aluminium sign screwed at eye level on my door saying “NO COLD CALLERS” They said it wasn’t a cold call as they had posted literature to me!! (which they hadn’t) The police said Talk Talk were difficult for them to contact to corroborate I.D s as there was no central phone number they could use. (I called the police as the Talk Talk representative said “I’m from the exchange, do you know about the changes going on” I took this to be a scam and called the police)
My choice of supplier would be PlusNet (oh I know I know it’s BT in a new coat lol)

Good luck with the police.

I’ve used http://www.surreycc.gov.uk/business-and-consumers/stop-cold-callers/frequently-asked-questions-about-cold-calling/cold-calling-template-letter

most councils have a similar page on their websites. Although I’ve not found them very effective.

Personally threatening them with legal proceedings seems to make the offending company prick their ears up. As funny enough Trading Standards don;t seem to bother with taking companies to court even when they have clear evidence of someone breaking the law. Although not sure why its a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Matt McA says:
22 November 2013

I am very surprised to see all the adverse comment on TalkTalk. I have been a TalkTalk customer for a good number of years and the service that I have received has been second to none. I left BT when they were not prepared to give me a reasonable deal on my calls and broadband. The service that I get from TalkTalk cannot be matched by other providers.

Robert says:
29 December 2013

I too am surprised by the adverse comments against Talk Talk as I have been a customer for about six years ,and in all that time I have had two or three problems ,which were resolved whilst talking with the operator ( my only grouse is that on occasions the operators can be a little difficult to understand due to local accents ) ,as for nuisance callers I find they are a downright pain in the neck ! ,but I now have a way that they really hate or at least it slows them up for a while ! (1) keep them on the line as long as long as possible without saying a word ,it’s a good laugh if you listen via speaker phone ! ,and (2) put the phone by your radio or hi fi loudspeaker ,and then turn the volume up flat out ,needless to say they loath the latter ! and cannot get off the line fast enough, but make sure it’s not a good friend for obvious reasons !! .

Pending decisive action by all landline providers to allow selective call blocking there are other solutions. I found that the BT3500 call-blocking phone transformed the situation for us. (It’s about £45, or £35 discounted) Provided you have caller ID you can block international, unavailable, withheld and phonebox calls,or any combination of these. plus specific numbers up to a maximum of ten, The landline provider does not have to be BT.
The number recording function of our phone shows about 12-15 telepest calls blocked per week, with up to four a day. That’s a huge saving of time and effort, having such calls strangled at birth. The phone doesn’t ring and the caller (if there actually is a real person there) just hears the ringing tone.
There may be other such phones available but this one certainly works.

It is OK saying that a BT phone (£35 discounted) will do what you want but now BT are charging £21 per year (every year) for that phone to do that job. It makes a huge difference ie £56 for the first year then £21 per year forever. At least until they put the price of Caller ID up again. I, personally, resent BT starting to charge for Caller ID while at the same time selling phones that only really work WITH that service. Stuff them

banjo: I’m not defending BT. All landline providers should provide the necessary optional blocking options at source, ideally without further cost.
But until that day arrives the phone I describe does give a practical solution for those who think the cost is worth it. For me, the huge difference it has made easily justifies the cost, and would do so even if I had to pay extra for caller ID (which I don’t as my provider’s package includes it.)

PeterM says:
27 February 2014

“charging £21 per year (every year) for that phone to do that job.”

I am guessing that you mean the (Caller Display) SERVICE (not phone) in that comment (?)

Caller Display has only ever been a ‘free service’ with landlines as part of the “BT Privacy” facility.

(OK there may be some other telecom firm offering caller display free, but it may be only as part of a bundle of other services / charges so is listed as free, but the telecom firm pays Openreach for it, even if they hide the cost in the line rental or some other charge made to the customer.)

Unfortunately, without Caller Display the recipient of calls simply cannot decide what to do (or use technology to handle the call in different ways).

Personally, I have cancelled Caller Display as my landline gets very few calls (I only ever enter mobile numbers on web forms, and many more businesses accept a caller might not have any landline, so no longer ‘insist’ on a landline type number. If they did, I have some 03xxx numbers (which could forward to my landline, but in my case, record the caller’s number and allow them to leave a voicemail, and it all comes to me via e-mail).

CORRECTION to previous posting
The phone is the BT6500, not 3500. Sorry!

Aneesh says:
22 November 2013

TalkTalk blocking nuisance calls? This is a LAUGH!! People, I include myself here, are getting one, or more, calls a day from 01844 398602 which, if you Google the number, is from TalkTalk apparently trying to do a hard sell – if you don’t answer, or your answer phone clicks in, the call is terminated! Read all the, adverse, comments on Google.

TalkTalk should look closer to home….

Dave N says:
22 November 2013

I joined TalkTalk in 2006 and opted fo Caller ID to filter out nuisance calls. Initially the TalkTalk charge was £1.50 per month for this service. Over time that has increased to £2.50 per month. I note with interest that “TalkTalk homes receive free caller display”. I will be contacting TalkTalk and am anticipating the appropriate refund. Otherwise it’s goodbye TT and hello Plusnet or Utility Warehouse.

Why oh why ?? I wouldn’t entertain either of those ” services “… I have caller ID .. AND a bog standard Answering Machine.
The phone rings…if I recognise the number, I answer it ( sometimes … ). If I don’t rec the number, the answer machine does the job.
I screen it…if I want to answer, I pick up , if not, I don’t. Simples !!! And No Extra Costs whatsoever.
It works fine … No problems at all…and no extra costs ,anywhere.

The only gripe I have , if it has any bearing on all this … Is, I don’t see why on a landline , anyone should have to pay for CI.. CALLER ID. I’m with Plusnet, ( having previously ” suffered ” with BT and Talktalk… IMO , you can’t beat Plusnet..they win all found …but they as them all, do charge for CID…albeit only 99p… If they dropped that, everything would be perfect.

Do Plusnet do a “land line only” product?

Hi, I’m treacly not sure on that one. When I signed, their broadband deal was just too good to miss is never considered that. But you can ask them on 0800 432 0200, free to call.. Mike

george says:
22 November 2013

does anyone know if plus net has a system to block these marketing and nuisance calls please to not recommend another phone provider as i have tried them all, plus net is fairly decent and ok and you can speak to some in Sheffield almost immediately

They do.. It’s a service “addon ” called Annonymous caller reject ” and blocks all Withheld calls…costs £4. Pm.
As 99% of these calls , if not all, are Withheld , that will block nuisence calls from even ringing ing your phone. For info on that, look at http://www.plus.net/support/phone/call_features.shtml

I mentioned earlier the way I do it at no extra cost..( bar the 99ppm for Caller ID ) …but my phone that I have,does actually have the facility to block callers numbers…for numbers you don’t want calling… Something like that may help if you have such a need.. My particular phone is a cordless tel and answer phone , Panasonic ,nothing special and I know there are other models that do the same ,should you consider that option too.

They do.. It’s a service “addon ” called Annonymous caller reject ” and blocks all Withheld calls…costs £4. Pm.
As 99% of these calls , if not all, are Withheld , that will block nuisence calls from even ringing your phone. For info on that, look at their site.

I mentioned earlier the way I do it at no extra cost..( bar the 99ppm for Caller ID ) …but my phone that I have,does actually have the facility to block callers numbers…for numbers you don’t want calling… Something like that may help if you have such a need.. My particular phone is a cordless tel and answer phone , Panasonic ,nothing special and I know there are other models that do the same ,should you consider that option too.

Mike, I don’t pay for my thing on my line that blocks all private / unknown numbers. I must of been lucky to get that put on for free.

Hello Lee..
What company is that that you use / what package ?



I am with Plusnet. I pay £17.50 (well I think it’s £17.49 tbh) per month for unlimited broadband, line rental and that block that stops private numbers.

It was £19.99 per month when I joined, but due to a problem and me kicking off on Twitter they dropped it to £17.50 a month.

I know I could get it cheaper, but the support is really good and I do love a Yorkshire call center 🙂

Thank you Lee.
I’m with you all the way on the Yorkshire call centre idea.. Makes me feel I’m back home when I speak to them 😉
I’ll have to look into my package that I have them..it’s only a few months old but memory doesn’t serve me well as to exactly what’s what. I know I have unlimited BB and now my line rental with them, I think that costs 3.95 for the BB ( I know they have cheaper deals on that now but the terms are different, not what I want ) .. plus about 12 for the line rental( it’s not a lot cheaper for the rental than bt, but it is cheaper.. ! ) plus as I say, 99ppm for the caller ID. Altogether I’m happy with it but I will check that.. As I say, my ‘ nuisance caller protection system ‘ such as it is ,works well, but I will check on that. Thank you again.

John M says:
22 November 2013

Interesting comment about phone support George. On a different subject from communications, I have just recently moved bank to First Direct (on a Which? recommendation). It’s so refreshing to talk to a REAL person who answers the phone. UK based to boot AND no “press button 5 if u want you armpits cleaned, Press button 4 if you want to speak about the thread count on your pillow cases ….. you know what I mean. When you call First Direct, the pleasant person DOESN’T put you on hold, they deal with your enquiry themselves THERE AND THEN. It’s like service from a top hotel. Polite, friendly and efficient. TAKE NOTE TALK TALK

Colum says:
22 November 2013

Not good enough. You have to called in excess of 4 times a day for 7 days before the organization will be considered as a possible nuisance caller. Come on WHICH you can’t accept this as an acceptabe response by TalkTalk. I would consider once a day for four or five days in a week unacceptable. Tell them to do better.