/ Technology

Wake-up call for nuisance phone calling companies

Cartoon with confused people on phone

Ring, ring! ‘Hello, this is an urgent message regarding your PPI.’ Are you fed up with nuisance phone calls like this? Now the worst offenders are getting a nasty wake-up call of their own.

Anger over nuisance calls appears to be growing, and quite rightly too. The latest Ofcom complaints data shows that complaints made to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) have increased 150% from July 2011 to July 2012.

When we’ve written about this issue previously, 76% of you told us you were still receiving unsolicited calls despite being registered with the TPS. The numbers are simply staggering, so what’s being done to improve the situation?

The TPS makes it clear on its website that there’s been a rise in the number of unwanted calls made to people registered with the service. However, it says that most of these calls originate from companies that deliberately ignore the law or hide/disguise their identity. The TPS itself doesn’t actually have any enforcement powers, but it does send its complaints to Ofcom and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) each month.

However, despite the TPS sending through more than 1,000 complaints each month, the ICO has yet to issue a fine against any company.

Naming and shaming the worst cold callers

In our joint letter to the ICO, Ofcom and the Direct Marketing Association (who run the TPS), we raised the possibility of publishing statistics on the most complained about companies.

We then decided to go one step further and sent a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to the ICO asking for the names of these companies. And finally, last week, we had a breakthrough! The ICO has decided to start publishing information around the enforcement action that it’s taking, and specifically naming and shaming the nuisance calling companies that have had the most complaints.

The list is hardly surprising – six Claims Management Companies, TalkTalk (which is still being investigated by Ofcom for making ‘persistent’ silent calls), a couple of home improvement companies, and two energy companies (British Gas and Scottish Power). These companies have assured the ICO that they’re working to address concerns about their calling tactics.

The publication of this list, alongside information on the ICO’s enforcement actions, demonstrates that the ICO’s taking a new approach to nuisance calls. It represents a very important first step in the fight against cold calling, although there’s still much more that needs to be done.

We want the ICO to send a clear message to companies that ignoring the TPS will not be tolerated. As well as naming and shaming these companies, we also want to see the ICO fine companies that breach the law.

Are you still being plagued by nuisance calls? Have you complained to the TPS or the ICO?


we use sky,as do an awful lot of others,what really gets on my wick is the persistant calls morning noon and night about insurance or extending warranties on my sky box,if i wanted the extended warranty i would have taken it out when i ordered the box,we have told them so many times that we dont want the ex warranty,but it doesnt make the blinded bit of difference they still keep phoneing every day apparrently its in the contract that you sign when you first take out a sky subscription that the company can call you but it really is bad practice to call every day even after telling them your not interested


This is a good step and I am pleased to report that the number of nuisance calls I get has fallen quite a bit recently to just two or three a week. I am not registered with the TPS as I realised it made little difference. Energy companies don’t seem to give up, however. Scottish Power seems to be the most persistent.


We get a few nuisance calls, often emanating from abroad – typically PPI, telling me there is something wrong with my computer, or that I’ve had an accident (I haven’t) and they can help with my claim. Tactics are: I tell them I’ll go and find the person they want to talk to – this then takes a very long time, so they hang up, or I describe an horrific accident in laborious detail. Childish and maybe ineffective – otherwise I just hang up.


Totally right Malcolm, if they insist on calling have some fun. Depending on my mood and who is in the room I vary my response. “PPI, what’s that then… hang on I’ll just get a pen and paper…well that all sounds interesting, so if you could put that in writing to me, I assume you have my address as you have my name and number without myself permision! Or if they ask for the ‘main housesolder’ I will put one of daughters on. Myself 2 year old loves a good chat!


After repeated calls I also took a great interest in the ‘fault’ on my computer. Asked them lots of questions about the ‘problem I was having’ then I needed to fetch a pen ….
My satisfaction was I was taking up their time, so they couldn’t be bothering someone else. And, they did stop calling.


I kept getting calls from companies asking for me to do a survey when I asked where they had got my number from as I am ex directory they declined to answer I then told them I was signed up to the TPS they replied that it was not a selling call just a survey and did not break any rules.
By now I was getting quite annoyed and said that as they are going to sell the information they received to make money they are selling they then repeated that it was quite right for them to phone me and were not breaking any rules I replied that if they phoned me again I would take them to court and slammed the phone down. I have not received any more calls since


The Telephone Preference Service has helped me a great deal because I used to get unsolicited calls from UK companies. I don’t answer calls from anyone whose number is withheld, but there is an answering machine if anyone needs to leave a message.

What is now annoying me is the number of calls from organisations doing market research. This is perfectly legal. I have no intention of giving any information to these companies and I wish that the authority of the TPS could be extended so that I could elect not to receive the calls.

nicky says:
21 November 2012

I now screen calls as 9 out of 10 are unwelcome: grants for insulation (we have solid walls & a loft conversion so nowhere to insulate), PPI, & pc files apparently corrupt – I tell them I have no internet – I struggle to leave a ringing phone unanswered, but its less stressful than answering a call I don’t want.


A few years ago I had persistent calls from a plastics company which used several different numbers. In the end I bought a trueCall box which sits between the phone line and the phone. This can store a zap list of phone numbers. Every time I get an unwelcome call I put the number in the trueCall zap list. Future calls from those numbers are blocked and never ring the phone. Shouldn’t be necessary to have to pay for this facility but it has been a godsend for the land line. Fortunately the box has several other facilities and has been worth the outlay, for me anyway.

Chris_jan says:
21 November 2012

If you have set up a new business, maybe with a new phone number, beware of bullying calls from ‘National Utilities’. There are many of these with similar names but they act on behalf of the electricity generating companies. My step-daughter started her cake business in our newly refurbished ground floor shop, got a new phone number and suddenly was getting calls from ‘National Utilities”. They had assumed that she/we had got a new lease and “when did we get a new contract for commercial electricity?”. I unwittingly gave the first caller too much info but subsequently checked them out with a web search. I then phoned our electricity supplier to affirm that we did not intend to switch from them.
On the second day of having the new number, we had no less than nine separate calls from these companies! Our county Trading Standard officer was informed and further to an email from him, these utility calls have now faded away.

Gordon says:
29 January 2013

These people are a nightmare. They claim to represent our utility supplier but have no idea of any of the details of our account. Their constant calls are harrassment and they will make up any story possible to get more information from you. Tell them nothing. If in any doubt call your supplier on the number on your bill to ask them if there is any problem with your account and then remedy it if there is. National utilities are clutching at straws with the tiniest pieces of information like your address or the name of someone that works in the business that they have found out. The last few days have been like groundhog day with them constantly phoning telling me i’m out of contract when i have in fact agreed all rates and payments with my supplier. I will take direct action against them the next time they call.

Margaret says:
21 November 2012

The telephone preference service worked very well for us but now we are receiving large numbers of international calls particularly at mealtimes. As we have family in the Czech Republic we leave these until the answer phone comes on when they disapear.

Can anything be done about this.


A few weeks ago I emailed the MoJ suggesting they alter the rules that CMCs work under. After getting a nothing reply I rang them up last week. And was told we get thousands of complaints, take it up with your MP. I tried to point out that if everyone who complains was to take it up with their MP each MP would end up with a smattering of complaints and probably not think it a big issue, whereas if everyone complained to the MoJ ( as a single point of contact), then the MoJ should raise it with the minister in charge of them. But alas no joy. It’s about time that regulators woke up and if they’re not doing what they need to do because the legislation needs strengthening then as the regulator it should be their job to do something about it, and not sit idly by doing too little for so long. The same criticism can be levied at the TPS/ICO. Oh and the suggestion I made was no “CMC is allowed to withhold/block or otherwise mask their phone number”. so at least we can report numbers as 95% of nuisance calls I get are number withheld/we do not have the number etc. Until regulators are forced to do a proper job, nothing much will change.

Anita Burksfield says:
23 November 2012

i just get so angry at these companies. Had one phone just now about my sky box insurance about to expire & they can save me money.also they will argue about it when i tell them No it hasen’t & i am with someone else. In fact I have had in one week seven calls!!! Then its credit card debt & loans & morgages i just say which is true no never had a credit card, or loan,& no i do not want them to do anything for me. I have reported some but to no avail, because no number is left but i am asked roughly what time the call was.The TPS/ICO are no help at all.Its just so frustrating. the mobile txts are just the same all spam.I have seen that with certain mobile companys you can forward it to them to deal with. I do have caller id on my home phone but these calls still come through.

Richard says:
23 November 2012


I have a telephone with answering and an outgoing message. This also has loud speak on answering.
My outgoing message is as follows.
Thank you for calling.
Please identify yourself we will pickup if we know who you are.
Please leave a message.
And thank you for calling.
The phone has book and a caller display if a caller who is in the phone book calls their name appears in the caller display so we can pick with out putting them through the third degree.
This has cut down on the number of nuisance calls dramatically in only a couple of months.
This phone was a worthwhile investment of less than forty pounds.
It works for us we hope it does the same for you.
If you phone please identify yourself.

Kind regards.

Troika says:
23 November 2012

How about Ofcom publishing not just the names of offending companies but also the home telephone numbers of their chairmen, company secretaries, financial directors and managing directors? This might change the situation rapidly.

Ash Sansom says:
23 November 2012

I signed up to TPS several years ago and at first the results were good with few nuisance calls. Over the intervening years the number of calls has steadily increased to more than it was before I joined TPS.
I had one minor success with the regular nuisance callers from British Gas. Although I am a customer of this company, I have no reason to believe that the same action will not work for people who are pestered and are not customers.
I received a call from a British Gas representative who told me that I was not on the best tariff. I queried this having done research on the tarrifs available. His answers were misleading and unduly brusque. I questioned him closely on how he could know that I could save money by getting both gas and electricity from British Gas. He reached a point where he could not answer without admitting that he had mislead me and he ended the call.
I complained to British Gas about the call and to cut a long story short, the caller had failed to log the call and had broken several guidelines based on my account of the discussion. The Customer Services representative asked me how she could remedy the situation for me. I asked that I receive no more marketing calls from British Gas. She agreed saying that this was a simple matter.
In the year or so since then British Gas have not called me. Result!


@Ash, Nice result, but did you check the number of the first call you had claiming to be from British Gas. Many companies claim one thing and are often something different. You never know they may not have been from British Gas. It would be nice if no company making calls in or into the UK was allowed to hide/mark or otherwise conceal their number.

Patricia says:
23 November 2012

I have consistently received calls from TalkTalk who took over the company OneTel with whom I have an account. I have no intention of signing up to a new contract with TT as I am perfectly happy with my current deal and do not wish to tie myself into another contract. One of the reasons for my refusal to switch is because the attitude of the sales people has been unbelievably pushy and on one occasion the level of rudeness was such that I decided that I had no intention of ever doing business with them and told them to leave me alone. I subsequently received a call from them about once a month. This has declined in recent months. In contrast, whenever I had to contact OneTel they had usually been pleasant and helpful. (Not sure if any of these people are still employed.)

David says:
23 November 2012

Most of the cold calls that I received say they can put something right with my computer, which I know has nothing wrong with it. They may say something about being trained by Microsoft, which Microsoft will never do. The caller usually has a strong Indian accent, the number identification on the handset says either “INTERNATIONAL Out of Area” or “UNAVAILABLE Out of Area”, and there is no way of tracing the number. I cannot have all such calls blocked, because I have a number of international contacts from whom I do wish to receive calls.

Geoff Sullivan says:
23 November 2012

My concern is International marketing (and silence) calls from India; some know my name. I receive several calls each week. I have contacted the nuisance calls service who say they can do nothing about International calls. I say there should be presssure brought to bear on the Indian Government to close down these nuisance call companies. In addition, have been telephoned 3 times with the Microsoft scam.
I understand that International/silence calls are a problem with many people.


Pleased you are talking this issue, but we are still receiving large numbers of international calls particularly at the evening mealtime. As we have family abroad we are reluctant not to answer. More needs to be done to stop these calls.

Snowdin says:
23 November 2012

I agree international calls early evening, coinciding with the evening meal, are the biggest problem at present. Interesting to see Anglian on the list. They are also sending round people knocking on the door. I recently decided to get an estimate for some work by Anglian. The salesman came and measured up but was only prepared to do a deal with me if I signed there and then. When I said I wanted to get another 2 quotes he withdrew the offer and left, saying manipulatively, “I’m sorry you aren’t interested in doing business with us.” At no time did I say I wasn’t doing business, I simply wanted to exercise a basic right which Anglian clearly do not recognise. I do detest such manipulative behaviour.


@snowdin, “do a deal with me if I signed there and then” I believe that is illegal, but I can’t put my finger on which law it breaks, something about pressure selling.


I joined TPS some years ago, and it made a difference. On the odd occasion I complained to them, they acknowledged my contact and sometimes sent a letter describing the outcome. In the last 18 months or so, the calls have increased considerably – they say they don’t know about TPS, or that they’re not covered by TPS, and TPS have stopped even acknowledgeing complaints.

There is also an increasing number of overseas calls and calls claiming to be market research that are trawling for business.

Brian Hughes says:
23 November 2012

Our problems are cold calling from India. I never answer and leave the phone answer machine to cope. My phone displays the fact that is an International Call and as we have only one overseas relative who rarely contacts us, so we know it is most likely to be a nuisance call. I think because we do not answer the ‘phone they often call upto 4 or 5 times a day from 8.30 to approx 1800. when we have answered the calls in the past they have been about computer problems they have spotted and claim to be working for microsost – all lies of course. Also for BT and Claims companies. It is time the Government and BT put a stop to these. It is no good them saying they cannot set up reciprocal agreements with India. Why does anybody think cold calling is going to generate business?
The only people likely to respond are the very elderly, infirm, mentally impaired and youngsters with no experience. All of whom should not be taken advantage of by such lying, duplicious organisations. There is no place for it in our society.


I received a cold call around 11.00 on Thu Nov. 22nd. The caller was a lady with an asian accent. She claimed to be calling on behalf of a “National Compensation Department” and seemed to be aware that I had paid off my mortgage some years ago. However she insisted on advising me that her organisation could check whether I was entitled to any PPl miselling compensation.

I listend to her and questioned her for sufficiently long to obtain a claimed company address at 21 Regent St, London, plus a call back phone no of 0121 284 3933. I then advised her that I was registered with TPS to not receive cold calls and terminated the conversation.

I subsequently rung 1471 but the originating call’s number was witheld. Then I rang the 0121 number and after several rings, only heard a foreign language recorded message.

Around 12.30 that day, I received a call from a male with an asian accent. He said he had received a missed call on his number. I asked the nature of his company and he said that he represented a call centre in India which deals with PPI business. I advised him likewise that I was registered with TPS in the UK, asked him to remove me from their database then terminated the call.

I didn’t find out whether any upfront fees might be sought for the PPI compensation service offered.


If I’ve ever rang back companies who’ve annoyed me or members of my family I dial 141 before their number so companies get a taste of what its like. ( 141 works on BT on sure if its the same number on other providers).

Howell says:
26 November 2012

It should be made impossible for any company to withhold their phone number. It is the calls that end when you pick up the phone that are so annoying.

The MP for Edinburgh West is trying to get action on this issue . Has he the support of any other MP’s?

Raysalarf says:
27 November 2012

I have several conversations to upset any cold callers.
1. Using a chinamans voice, one imitates master not at home, but can take message if one read it out….slowly and make them go back to previous word etc…
2. to ones that use first name terms, you ask who is calling, company, tele no where they live, and then ‘as you are on first name terms with the deceased’ when was the last time you saw them’ they then either panic and put the reciever down, or swear that they dont know the deceased, which opens up all sorts of further questions..it can run into a good 1/2 hour of fun
Of course one must not laugh or say who you are else it could spoil the fun
3. One can use a American accent, and ask who is calling at this time at night.
4. After picking phone up and they have given you the spill, just say this is the Fraud scrad how can I help you , and repeat if necessary. the line should go dead


Just an update on ICO action. Today the ICO issued a £440,000 fine on the two owners of a marketing company bombarding people with spam text messages. This is a fantastic step by the ICO and we hope they will continue to take strong enforcement action against these companies. However, we have yet to see any monetary penalty issued by the ICO against companies disregarding the TPS. We want the ICO to send a clear message to companies that ignoring the TPS will not be tolerated.



Isn’t a huge part of the problem that companies who call you on your landline/mobile can hide their phone number making it almost impossible for us individuals to identify the caller without going through a long game of cat and mouse over the phone? It is relatively easy for the ICO as anyone can just forward a text to 7726 ( other numbers are available on other networks ). And there is no such mechanism to report a call you get on your landline. Like simply dialling a code after or during a nuisance call. We need these things addresses to allow people to report companies first. It would be nice if the TPS recognised this and pushed for a change in legislation to allow them meet the demand.


In early December I took the advice of Mr Herman and told a PPI claims company that if they called me again I would invoice them for my time at a rate of £10 per minute. I mid December they called me again. I found out the name of the company concerned and said I would now be invoicing them as previously stated. They hung up. I then called the MD of the company (I found his name from the http://www.companycheck.co.uk web site) and told him of my actions and that if they didn’t pay I’d pursue the action through the small claims court. An hour later I had a call from the MD of a telemarketing company apologising for the second call, with an assurance that I had now been removed from their database and offering a payment of £100 if I stopped the action. I assume that they’d made the calls on behalf of the PPI company and had had ‘feedback’ on their methods from the MD I’d called. On Christmas Eve the cheque arrived.
So, by all means register complaints to the TPS, I have been for many years but have had little success. If you want a real result, hit them where it hurts, in the pocket.
For reference the web site set up by Richard Herman is at http://www.saynotocoldcalls.com. There are guidance notes along with letter and invoice templates to help in the process.

palacestinian says:
30 January 2013

Does anybody have any knowledge of the “Call Prevention Registry” and how effective they are? Their website claims they can do a better job than TPS, covering overseas as well as UK calls, though they appear to charge a fee.

Norma says:
20 March 2013

I am so glad DM design were fined – They have been calling me for years even although I told them I had TPS, sent a complaint, complained to the police about them, had someone who worked there have my name taken off their database, threatened them with legal action and on speaking to a manager a second time threatened them with the police again – they finally stopped a couple of months ago – now to stop texts from PPI, injury compensation & frozen pensions.

Martin Claridge says:
2 April 2013

I to was being plagued by unwanted telephone calls. I am registered with the TPS, but all of these calls were originating from abroad. Then there were the ‘silent’ calls. Initially, I found the best way of dealing with these was to leave the handset ‘off-hook’ for about three hours. It tied up the line from the call originator, and the calls decreased in number. Then I asked my phone Company to initiate the “Anonymous Caller Reject” facility. Now I receive no nuisance calls at all.

John Watson says:
3 June 2013

I have no issues with some marketing calls, specially if they are offering a genuine product/service that I may be interested in. Being registered under the TPS prevents companies from contacting me offering a new product/service. It is great when you are talking to real people who are trying to offer a genuine service, for those who have worked in sales will know how stressful of job it can be.

The issue I have with these companies, they keep calling after you request them not to and they provide no contact details. If I had there contact details, forget about the TPS I would be suing the Individuals behind the company directly my self.

The issue with these fines, is that no one is being penalised, the companies with simply build the risk of these fines into their business plans. I had to cut off a client to answer one of these automated calls, it is not just a nuisance but I am losing money at the same time.


Taking the lead from Richard Herman’s well published actions last year I received a cheque for £100 from a company that I threatened with legal action. They had repeatedly called me even though I was on the TPS and had told them to delete my details. The web site at http://www.saynotocoldcalls.com/ has templates of letters, emails and invoices you can send.
My advice is;
1. Don’t answer anything that shows up as; International or Unavailable, if it’s a genuine call on these they’ll leave a message on the ansafone.
2. Have friends and family numbers in the phone to identify the caller.
3. Record all calls on ‘proper numbers’ that you don’t recognise. If it’s a cold call get as much information as possible; company name, address, website, etc., without alerting the caller to your real intention. Then tell them you’re TPS registered, they’ve broken the law, they must remove your name and details from their database, a complaint against them will be logged with the TPS, that if they call again you’ll invoice them for your wasted time and you’ve recorded the call for future reference. If the call came from a registered company (i.e. Ltd) you can find their full details, including the names of directors, using the free service from http://www.companycheck.co.uk.
If it’s not a registered company or one that’s using a ‘trading name’, and you have a website address you can often get their details using a web search (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) or by going to the domain registrar via http://www.whois.net.
A web check can also reveal if they’re a member of a recognised trade organisation. I’m currently taking action against a security company who repeatedly cold called. They are required to be members of the SSAIB and I’ve notified them of the actions I’m taking. A copy of the emails and letters to this body will I’m sure increase the pressure on the calling business in a way that an individual probably can’t.
4. Make a note of who called and when so that they can be pursued as detailed above if they call again. I also log the complaint via the TPS website.
5. On a first call send an email to the MD stating that they must remove your details, attach a copy of the recorded call, repeat that if they call again they will be invoiced your wasted time, telephone costs, electricity etc., and if they ignore the invoice I you use the fast track process in the local court to get payment.
6. If they call again, simply action the steps above.

Jack B says:
23 July 2013

You could not design a better plan for doing nothing. 3 organisations looking after TPS registered , silent , recorded message, and hidden call number calls.
Replace the TPS with a service for anyone who is prepared to accept any calls from unkown sources.
Everyone else would then be covered BY LAW aginst nuisance calls of all types. A nuisance call would be reported to the new TPS and a police ing action would ensue. Typing a number in Google will confirm the annoyance caused by a specific number.
Should the offending callers hide their number, as is frequently the case, the accurate time of a call to home and the sender identified.
Fixed penalty fines would be issued to offenders on an escalating scale should they be ignored.

Andy S says:
1 June 2015

How exactly do I stop these calls, mainly from consumer Money matters? I don’t know about the automated calls because I can usually tell and reject them, but they have started using mobile numbers as well as the 0116 numbers. Telling them to remove me has no effect whatsoever, can I sue for nuisance?

Rettie says:
22 July 2015

Cold calling of any kind should be illegal. My 85 year old father got quite agitated by an 0800 number the other day, so he noted it down. He didn’t know much about 0800 numbers but recognised it as the first digits of his car insurance so though it was them but when he dialled back got an answer machine which he couldn’t make out what was being said. (My dad is deaf & also not very good with phones). When I phoned the number it was a recorded message saying it was The National Survey Line” . Now my dad got a new number about 18mths ago which did seem to stop him getting as many cold calls. We haven’t given this number out to anyone but family so how the hell did they get it? I don’t want to get another number so have decided best option is to buy a new phone which will bar withheld numbers, international numbers & it also lets you put in information to bar all 08 numbers. I’m going to get one for myself too as in our old house I got pestered a lot about PPI which I know I’ve never had. We’ ve moved & have a new number but already had a few unsolicited calls. By the way I found CR Smith to be the worst! I e-mailed their MD & miraculously they stopped!


I receive at least 6 calls a day off the same company (.as I have traced the call number) so as from 20th Aug I decided to try and stop them . When my landlines phone rang I stopped on the phone and followed the instructions ; I pressed 5 to speak to someone . I asked who I was speaking to and was told there name .then when I asked for the address that they were ringing from they just hang up .. dose anybody know if I can invoice them for my time . If so how do I go about it


Lee , if you have traced the call and it is a genuine UK telephone number could you post it please and I will do everything I can to find out about this company and ,yes , I will contact them . If the UK bodies who say they will help you don’t help you in the long run then this website , if it lives up to its aims, should allow you to publish the offending company name as its a case of “name + shame ” as an MP who has appeared on Which Convo has done to the 197 companies who underpay their staff , I would be very much surprised if it didnt ?

Bob gray says:
16 February 2017

It is not 2017, and I am still getting up to half a dozen a day. TPS is totally ineffective and how could we expect anything else. They probably source the phone numbers from the tps, which is just a representative body of telemarketers as far as I can see. The purpose of TPS is to gether your info, not to protect it.

It really is a joke! We have to give up our landlines to save our time from being wasted. Not clever at all.


Bob I am verging on being ashamed on your behalf that our government isn’t taking decisive action like the action taken to protect US citizens by their Administration in all its full capacity to defend the US public from out and out harassment.

Lynne says:
12 October 2017

My calls stopped for a while I have just had 2 calls within hour first for Mrs Robinson I have told them for 12 years No one knows who this is take the number off your list. Now just call for Mr or Mrs Robinson told them it was harassment and reporting them. Didn’t give them a chance to reply put phone down