/ 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?

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

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.

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

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

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

Lisa Scarrott says:
26 June 2018

Yes I’m to getting marketing calls from British gas its my 8th one phone calls in 13 days wanting me to have smart phone installed in my flat I’ve spoke to several staff in British gas and put in many complaints about the harrasment of the way and how many times they have called me. I’ve told the British gas sales team 8 times i dont want a smart meter installed in my flat yet I’m still receiving phone calls. I’ve now put in my second complaint and will take further action if I get any more phone calls from them they use bullying tactics to get a smart meter inside customer houses or flats they should not be allowed to do this. Its harassment

Risking your money by investing in something you don’t understand, maybe lured by the promise of rewards well above the norm, is a recipe for financial disaster. However………..? This “lawyers” website seems a bit amateurish with spelling errors. And
“Our Location
150 Street, London, USA

Maybe Which? could look into this?

Hi Malcolm,

Were you replying to a comment about single mother of 3 getting money back? That comment was deleted as it was spam. I am not sure how that one sneaked through our filters.

@abbysempleskipper. Hello Abby, yes I was and also reported is as probable spam or promotion. Thanks for the prompt action. 🙂

Like others here I regularly get calls from overseas, but at least when the calls are from the UK, my new smart phone pings up a warning “Potential Fraud” or at least the name of the company calling me, which is often not the name of the company they introduce themselves from, what I try to do now is note down the company name making the call, go to https://www.reportingaccounts.com and find their registered address, then write a standard letter of complaint asking to remove me from their database and threatening to report them if I receive future calls. It takes time for each instance but it is now leading to much reduced call numbers.

Thanks for this post it really highlights the issue well.