/ Technology

We’re calling time on nuisance calls and texts

Phone being hit by hammer

‘I hate it and feel powerless.’ Which? Conversation commenter Matt Petre summed up many of your feelings on nuisance calls. We’re calling on regulators to work together to police and punish those responsible.

It’s clear that nuisance calls and texts have become a daily problem for many of you. They not only cause frustration, but they can even be distressing and intimidating.

There have been 1,600 comments made about nuisance calls and texts here on Which? Conversation and many of them have had the same theme – ‘why isn’t something being done?’. Our research also found that in the last three months, seven in 10 people have received unsolicited calls and four in 10 an unwanted text.

The government, various regulators and business leaders have told us that they get that this is a problem. The Information Commissioner has recently fined some companies. But I really think we’ve waited long enough for a proper crackdown that cuts the problem off at source. Which? wants to see some action and I know many of you agree.

A joint taskforce to stop nuisance calls

So we’ve launched a campaign to call time on nuisance calls and texts. We have called on the four regulators who have the responsibility of helping protect you from unwanted calls and texts (the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading) to set up a joint taskforce to take action on this nuisance.

We want this taskforce to start by focusing on the Personal Injury and Payment Protection Insurance industries, which is one of the main problem areas you have told us about. Our latest investigation has revealed that after making a claim to their car insurance companies, one in four Which? members were bombarded with calls or texts from claims management companies. So it’s definitely a good place to start.

We think it’s time for the regulators to go into the offices of the companies that are making these calls, or benefiting from them. We want this taskforce to get to the bottom of why so many of you are getting calls and texts you don’t want. We want to know if rules are being broken and if they are, there must be quick and effective punishment. If the taskforce finds evidence of rule breaking, we want heavy fines and licences suspended.

And one other thing. We want to see results in 12 weeks time. If the regulators are unwilling or unable to take this action then Which? will call on the government to step in.

Cutting off nuisance phone calls and texts

Cutting down on nuisance calls and texts may be complicated and there may need to be changes to the regulatory system or even new laws. But Which? has listened to you and we know that many of you want to see action – now. So our message to them is, ‘do what you can and do it now’, and then tell us what needs to change.

We will let you know more about our campaign over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, we want to hear about your experiences. Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts? Then tell us.

Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts?

Yes (100%, 30,130 Votes)

No (0%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 30,221

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Anon says:
24 August 2015

I think it’s pretty obvious that the reason nothing is being done is because the phone companies etc are making money from the service / device to stop the calls. What needs to be changed first of all is that there should be NO FEE to have calls barred. I would not even be surprised if the companies selling the call blocking devices were involved in MAKING calls that prompt people to buy the thing to stop the calls.

You can’t ban or ignore all / most calls or unplug phones for obvious reasons and changing your behaviour so drastically in response to someone contacting you ought to be a crime. (It IS a crime) The entire point of phones is that they are convenient and calls can be done spur of the moment so pre-planning calls is nonsensical. If a relative abroad usually calls you from the same number but one day is in an accident or something and calls from something else like a friend’s phone what then? What about the people on the September 11th flights? You would be ignoring those calls and angry over them only to perhaps find out later that it would be the last time you would ever speak to your relative. I would think carefully before you decide on this option if you have people abroad.

The DPA needs to be enforced properly with CRIMINAL charges for not protecting someone’s data. If your information is sold then the person who did it should be jailed. Even a month or maybe even a day would be enough to stop them. At least give them a criminal record for it. The risks in data being given out are huge and as you can see here clearly get out of control with no way to reverse it so it has to be stopped from happening at all.

I frankly think it is terrifying to be called because these people already know where you live and usually have your full name and can clearly identify you. You have already been targetted. They are rude, make no sense, are nasty, usually refuse to hang up when you say no and cannot even communicate with you properly (or pretend not to understand) and nobody should have to put up with that. If they feel like taking revenge or are just general sadists they can look you up online and see photos of you etc and who knows where that could lead.

I also think that the DPA needs to be changed in the from of everyone being given a way to access a file of every single company or person that has their details and I assume that this means they would need to register each person rather than just registering as a data controller. Then you get to choose who you want to allow to keep your details and remain in contact with you. Eg: bank, gas company, online clothing stores etc. You can also find out immediately when your information has been passed on without permission and get rid of ones you don’t recognise.

I think people would be shocked by how many people have our details and also those who keep our details for far longer than is necessary. Our details will (or can) still be on file in places we last used 10 years ago and the only way to even possibly get the details erased is to have remembered every single place you ever shopped or had contact with and write to them to request removal and to be “forgotten”. That to me is totally ridiculous. It is not even lawful for them to keep the data for so long in the first place but the ICO does not seem to enforce it. Few people also know about this particular right, never mind the wider right to control your data.

With all the data leaks, hacks etc it is really important that the DPA as a whole is strengthened and that companies are REQUIRED to delete your data after say, a year of doing no buisness with you. They cannot contact you at all. They should send you a final letter saying they are removing you and do you want to opt in for another year for example and if no reply then leave you alone. But if you have been ignoring and not shopping with them for a year I don’t see why you would want to keep an account.
Online services in particular just force you to make accounts to collect your data and spy on you and advertise and that shouldn’t be allowed. I was forced into making accounts and giving out a phone number just to buy something ON LINE not over the phone, with my EMAIL that I could discard but it turns out I couldn’t even do that and companies forced me to use the same account and account details which is ridiculous as shops can’t force you to do this so they can enforce spying on you. It is also a security risk as you end up with a thousand passwords and inevitably use the same ones otherwise you’d constantly forget them all. Almost all online shops force you to give out your phone number which should not be allowed as there is no need for it. Again, I can only assume this is to sell on as there are clear boxes saying not to contact and yet you still have to give one out and some even insist on it being a LANDLINE.

Keeping your data for a long time like say a year is only for convenience and them not losing out on possible business and that is not a good enough reason to store personal data essentially forever, without the person even knowing it. I get letters every 3 years or so from somewhere I bought something from literally 10 years ago. I never bothered to tell them to stop it but it’s worrying that they still have me on the list like some bizarre ex who thinks our relationship is more than it is!

Here in France I have just received a flyer from France Telecom. It is almost the ideal solution. It makes money for the telephone company, it is easy to use, and it is 100% effective.

It works like this. You dial a number to set it up. It costs one euro per month, so less than £10 pa. If someone calls you with their number withheld, they have to identify themselves to the telephone company. Your phone rings for the first time, and the phone company says who is calling. Now you can choose to accept the call or not.

The main disadvantage is that you have to answer the phone, it does not block known unwanted callers.

Colin says:
18 January 2016

Despite several companies having been fined for making literally millions of nuisance calls over a lengthy period, no more than a few hundred people logged official complaints about them with Ofcom/ICO. This is partly because there’s no single avenue of complaint for consumers. We’re supposed to report nuisance calls to ICO, unless it’s a silent call, in which case Ofcom, or a scam, in which Action Fraud, unless its a premium rate scam, in which case PhonepayPlus…and so on! More people complain on numerous unofficial online forums, which are great for having a rant, but do not count in the official figures, and are no use as evidence – so the telepests love them!
Please can all the relevant authorities get together to have one single official site where formal complaints about nuisance calls can be lodged. They might have to be forwarded to different bodies for investigation, but this should happen after a complaint has been received – it should not be left to consumers to work out which relevant authority to report to.

Jeswhich says:
14 June 2016

Yes, I am completely fed up with nuisance calls.

Why do. We have to waste so much time energy ringing around wasting phone calls -credit -being upset at idiots who rip us off blindly ,It takes so long for us to get out of contracts-nuisance phone calls -funeral cover -life insurance policies -we end up not wanting to answer phone calls due to being harassed in our own homes and private spaces .They no longer exist .xdonna billing

If p.p.i. was sold! Can the government not just advice the bank involved to just automatically repay the money into the individuals bank account. Surely this is an easier way than the constant phone calls i receive every day. Its starting to become very annoying!

FOR MOBILE PHONE: I’ve taken to using apps that advise if the numbers calling are a nuisance , their names and number appear on screen & i can block them from calling again. I don’t answer their unwanted calls and calls from withheld and private numbers also. FOR HOME PHONE: I’m on TPS list but still get unwanted calls. For this I use a whistle if its a person on the line IF they are repeat nuisance callers. If computerised I tend to cut off after 3/4 seconds of listening.

S Brown says:
22 February 2017

Phone providers should be obliged to offer a user friendly service that allows blocking of nuisance calls without having to block whole categories of calls such as international or withheld numbers.