/ Money, Technology

ICO: what we’re doing about nuisance PPI calls

Phones being cut

Have you been nuisance called by claims management companies trying to get you to reclaim PPI? Here’s Steve Eckersley on what the ICO is doing to crack down on them.

Nuisance calls annoy most people, but in many cases they can leave individuals feeling distressed and frightened.

We’ve heard about companies that phone people in the middle of the night, ask to speak to deceased relatives or ring repeatedly after being asked to stop.

Regulating the law around marketing calls is one of the roles of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

We listen to concerns raised by individuals about nuisance calls, provide advice to organisations and take enforcement action against those that break the rules.

Since the start of this year we’ve issued £930,000 in fines to companies which broke the law when making marketing calls.

PPI cold call fines

Calls relating to PPI claims account for a significant number of the concerns that people tell us about. In 2015, approximately 20% of the total number of concerns we received about unwanted live calls, automated calls and text messages were in relation to PPI. That’s 32,739 out of 166,663 of them.

We take action where we find PPI cold calls and texts have broken the law. Just last month we issued Swansea firm Falcon and Pointer with a £175,000 fine after it made millions of automated calls about PPI.

Pam, who recently commented here on Which? Conversation, has been affected by PPI calls among others:

‘I regularly get several calls per day. They are about PPI claims, or my computer needs fixing […] Today’s was from a “solicitor” about a car accident reported from my address – pretty strange since I live alone and haven’t driven for some years.

‘Some elderly people are becoming afraid to answer for fear of falling victim to one of the scams which are reported in the media every week. It needs to be stopped.’

What the law says

There are two types of marketing calls:

  • Live calls: unwanted marketing calls from a real person.
  • Automated calls: pre-recorded marketing messages that are played when you answer the phone.

Organisations are not allowed to make live marketing calls to people who have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), unless individuals have given prior consent. In addition, organisations must not make calls to individuals who have previously said they don’t want those calls.

The rules on automated calls are stricter. Organisations can only make automated marketing calls to people who have specifically consented to receiving automated calls from them.

What can I do if I am receiving nuisance live marketing calls?

  • Tell the caller you don’t want to receive marketing calls from them. If the organisation continues to call you can report your concerns to us.
  • Register for free with the TPS, a list of people who have opted out of receiving live marketing calls. If you register with the TPS and continue to receive nuisance live marketing calls 28 days after registering, you can complain either directly to the TPS or report your concerns to us.
  • To avoid nuisance live calls you should check privacy statements when you provide your phone number.

What can I do if I am receiving nuisance automated calls?

By far our greatest allies in the war against the nuisance callers are the people who report them to us. You can report calls to us and other regulators using Which?’s nuisance call reporting tool.

Have you had nuisance calls about reclaiming PPI? Do you report them to the ICO?

This is a guest contribution by Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). All opinions are Stephen’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


It is quite pathetic really. We want nuisance calls to stop but the powers that be just chip around the edges. Do they really think eventually we will end up with just ‘legitimate’ calls?

3 months ago, I listed 36 types of nuisance call that I have received. No doubt there are countless others.
I also counted 71 conversations on nuisance calls here on Which? with over 8500 comments and there have been many more since.

When are the powers that be going to listen?

The end result of nuisance calls is to exhort money out of you one way or another. You have no way of knowing if a ‘legitimate’ call is who they say they are, so vulnerable people will always be at risk.

As I have said many times before, as long as it is legal to buy and sell our personal data, nuisance calls will never stop.

stephen connor says:
1 April 2019

Last entry on this site April 2016 and its still going on Nuisance Calls These will never stop because telephone companies rent lines out to these people and it will cost them a lot of money if this is stopped so thats the reason it continues on and on

I agree with Alfa. We need to put an end to nuisance calls and the ICOs approach is inadequate to achieve this.

Fines are unlikely to work because they can be treated as an operating expense. What would work is to suspend telephone services for companies that make nuisance calls for a day, a week, a month or as long as necessary to make them compliant.

Furthermore, householders should be require to opt-in rather than opt-out of receiving marketing calls.

Let’s have this country run for the benefit of its citizens rather than companies.

In the previous conversation on this topic I suggested that fines were pointless as they are seen as part of the cost of operating the nuisance business. I proposed disconnecting the phone service for a specified period; some thought this might be illegal, but on the basis that if you don’t pay your bill you can be disconnected I don’t see this argument.

However, there is little point in moaning about the situation unless there are clear ways in which effective action can be taken. When action, like the above, is proposed then we (Which?) should be discussing these with the ICO and seeking means to implement them – or reasons why they can’t.

The big problem I see is when companies make these calls from overseas. I do not see how this can be stopped – and determined UK companies may just move offshore. Can this be dealt with?

So time to make positive suggestions and get positive responses – isn’t it?

I should be interested to know the recovery rate on the fines imposed. Withdrawal of telephone service should be one of the sanctions available.

Mair Taylor says:
13 April 2016

Put handset to one side & let them talk to themselves.
If they are offering PPI tell them yours has already been claimed & the money has been spent on a great holiday..
If they are pretending to be from Microsoft say you haven’t got a computer anymore.
The vehicle accident is a new one to me but I would tell them my car was scrapped a number of years ago.
One of my friends have kept them talking for about 30mins or more incl asking them to hold whilst she went to get herself a cup of tea & sandwich.
Finally if all else fails just put the phone down on them

Dennis says:
13 April 2016

To help minimise these calls, set your landline to reject anonymous calls. This is easily done and is often a free service. This should feduce the problem significantly.
You can also pick up the phone and dial a code number which blocks the last caller for ever. If you should change you mind just dial a different code to unblock them.
These two actions should reduce your problem by about 90%.
Good look.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hello all, we published this story on the PPI compensation time limit yesterday:

The introduction of a time limit on PPI compensation claims will set a dangerous precedent and could lead to a further increase in nuisance calls, Which? warns.

There is concern that a two-year time limit for PPI complaints will set a dangerous precedent and result in banks having little incentive to pay out compensation swiftly and directly to consumers in future mis-selling scandals. It is also highly likely that introducing a time limit for PPI complaints will result in a huge increase in nuisance calls from Claims Management Companies (CMCs).

Before the FCA goes ahead with any proposals for a time limit, Which? wants to see: a simpler process for making a claim, with banks required to accept complaints electronically tighter regulation of CMCs, with directors personally accountable if their company breaks nuisance calls rules more information published about how firms have handled claims to date, the amount of redress outstanding and how the FCA will judge the time limit to be a success.

Read more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/04/which-warns-of-the-dangers-of-a-ppi-time-limit–439229/

At least PPI nuisance calls would stop in 2 years time.

As Which? sponsors TV programmes, why not advertise how to claim PPI at the same time?

Pauline Holbrook says:
14 April 2016

I’m afraid the tps do nothing I still get calls everyday. I did complain but they ignored it. So TPS you are rubbish !!!

Signing up for TPS has reduced these calls by 98% so worth giving it at go. (This was for my mobile number). Gave up on a landlline ages ago because of these calls.

We have four phone numbers at the shop and some days we get constant calls trying to sell us cheaper this and cheaper that. If I wanted the services of these companies I would ask them to give me a price, as I don’t want to do business with these people I do not want my time wasted answering these stupid calls sometimes twenty in a day. My father who is in his nineties still gets these calls and I have registered the shop numbers and my father’s home number with the TPS and this makes no difference.

It is time that it was made illegal this will stop people’s time being wasted and stop the unnecessary anxiety suffered by older people.

I had a new one today. A determined lady wanted me to provide her with a gas meter reading. She provided my answer phone with a telephone number and a web site. She wanted my address and post code for some reason. Since I have recently had a gas bill, I know this to be a fraud, though what, I couldn’t say. Maybe the phone call is a premium number, maybe the web site infects computers. Anyway, I pass this one on to you for what its worth.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

http://www.myreading.net phone 08457023461…..that seems to be a premium one doesn’t it?

I have a suspicion that phone numbers and web sites are not allowed here as I can’t send a reply to you. The phone number was zero, eight four five seven zero two three four six one the web site was double u times three, myreading dot net. Try that>

Dear moderator. Please delete all the messages you are currently moderating. Ths computer seems to be having a bad hair day and there are a few similar comments that didn’t get through when I clicked the button.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hello Vynor, I have approved one of your comments. Any comment with a link in it is automatically sent into our moderation box for manual approval. I’ve just got to work and have approved one for you. Also, make sure to sign in before commenting so that you are commenting from your account and we can see your avatar so we know it’s you and not an impostor 🙂

No Duncan, all o.k thanks. I’m heading for bed.

Hi Vynor,
If you search the telephone number online, it is listed on quite a few questionable telephone number websites. It may or may not be genuine. There are 19 pages of comments on whocallsme dot com.

Scenario 1 – It could be genuine
The phone number seems to belong to a company called Lowri Beck who appear to read meters on behalf of your energy supplier. I have been told it is a legal requirement for my energy company or their representative to read my meter once a year and Lowri Beck could just be lazy trying to get readings over the phone instead of sending someone to read your meter properly and at the same time do a safety inspection.

Some energy companies let you set up a password for the meter reader. I would contact your energy supplier, ask them what is going on, set up a password if you can, and tick them off for not informing you who how your meter would be read.

Scenario 2 – Scam
These days, we are naturally suspicious of any phone call out of the blue wanting information from us and energy companies have always been aggressive marketers. They used to be on the doorstep, then nuisance calls, and now the Competition and Markets Authority are proposing a database so they can send us nice letters to let us know we can switch.

We used to get a lot of nuisance calls demanding to know which energy company we were with. I always refused to tell them as it was none of their business. But the callers probably got a quite a large database of information. Several people on the questionable telephone numbers websites give the impression the callers are using old listings.

Another clue is the website name you give is not Lowri Beck although a search on myreading dot net appears to belong to them. We do know scammers can spoof telephone numbers to appear to come from a legitimate company and also set up realistic looking websites. I would not open the website you were given in case it tries to download some malicious software.

These calls could be forward-planning for if the CMA go ahead with their ridiculous proposal. They could be instigated by energy companies or they could be from scammers who will later try and sell the information they have accumulated to the energy companies.

Because callers seem to be using old listings, I would treat it as a scam but I would contact my energy company just in case. If energy companies want to use these outfits, they have to do much better informing customers.

Many thanks Alfa. I had come to that conclusion and would not correspond with anyone who cold calls, especially as they didn’t know who my supplier was or who I was either. I published the details to warn any other people, who might be contacted, to be cautious in replying. What makes me angry is that they might make folk feel it is their duty to reply. I suspect it is the premium phone number that brings in the cash and that, too, makes me angry, because they (who ever they are) should not have one.
Incidently, Patrick, I couldn’t sign in at first, but later, for some reason, the usual sign in in screen let me do so. At first my user name was invalid. All those moderated comments should be deleted since they were attempts that failed and repeat themselves.

No problem Vynor and you are right, many people will be taken in and give them the information they ask for or add to their coffers by returning the phone calls.

Another clue, shouldn’t they be using 0345 these days and not 0845?

I think it is unfair to condemn TPS and ICO for not stopping nuisance calls. What do people expect to happen? Perhaps a GCHQ-like operation to monitor every call? Responsible UK-based companies will not make calls to UK-based numbers which are listed by TPS. It is only by people registering with TPS, reporting unsolicited calls to TPS and ICO, and ICO issuing high penalties that nuisance callers will eventually get the message.

The sooner PPI calls are banned the better.

I have just had a PPI call and informed the caller straight away I have never had it. I normally cut them off quickly but the caller was so amusing the call lasted nearly 20 minutes.

It seems PPI could be added to my credit card without my knowledge, a couple of pence here and there and I wouldn’t know. So it seems if I bought something for £10.00, £10.02 could be on my credit card. They might even put it on my mortgage or my bank account (from my credit card spending? doh!!!), but the callers company need to investigate it.

The caller did admit they knew nuffink about PPI until they started the job but I have never heard such rubbish in all my life.

I agree with Alfa too! The ICO is not doing nearly enough! They need to be more proactive, dish out even higher fines and most definitely need to follow up on those callers who contravene the law! They have been in existence for a number of years and boast they have issued over £800,000 in fines! Not nearly enough, the callers are making millions of pounds each year and some per month – a mere drop in the ocean to them!

And the recovery rate on the fines . . . is . . . ? :: They won’t say. Until it is confirmed otherwise we should assume it is zero.

philip robinson says:
10 June 2016

Mount Reclaim have phoned me three times today, within three minutes, I told them it was now illegal to cold call about ppi and the caller was quite rude … .. I blocked their number after the third call, I can not find their website to send them a link to the government website with the relevant laws.