/ 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?


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.