/ Technology

A phone call to action – no more nuisance sales calls

We’re all being plagued by unwanted sales calls and texts – even if we’re registered with the Telephone Preference Service. So why can’t it help those of us who are fed up with nuisance calls?

Every few years, a new wave of dubious money-making communications crashes over consumers. In the past decade or so, premium-rate phone and fax scams have receded.

The Nigerian email scam (‘I need to transfer money to a UK bank account, just give me some first’) has been superseded by phishing emails (‘I need to check your bank security details’). The letters congratulating us all on winning a Spanish lottery we never entered have mostly ebbed away. But there’s a new kid on the block – the unsolicited sales call.

This takes such forms as a call from a claims management firm offering to get you compensation for mis-sold payment protection insurance that you never bought. It’s not just calls, it’s texts as well and I’m sick of them.

Telephone Preference Service asleep on the job

Research this week by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has found that over three-quarters of people (78%) have been contacted by a Claims Management Company (CMC) asking if they had been involved in an accident or been mis-sold payment protection insurance. In London, the figure rose to 82%.

Even more amazingly, the ABI found that 92% of those who received such a message from a CMC said it was not relevant to them. So it’s hardly surprising three in four people back a ban on unsolicited messages.

There’s supposed to be a gatekeeper you can employ for free, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), but it’s apparently asleep on the job. And it doesn’t cover texts, which makes no sense. The TPS describes itself like this:

‘This free service gives you the opportunity to select who contacts you by telephone. Once registration is complete, telemarketers are legally bound not to call you.’

So why are they calling me and many of you who’ve registered? I think most consumers would think the words ‘by telephone’ will include any and all means of communication received on their phone – mobile or landline, text or call.

Hung up on unsolicited sales calls

A Which? colleague whose phone number has long been registered with the TPS recently complained to it about a PPI compensation call.

The call handler said there had been a big influx of such complaints (no surprise) but it could do nothing as they’re not classed as sales calls, but ‘a service’. This is laughable. The ‘service’ is paid for by a fee taken from any compensation you get. How is this different from someone offering to fit double glazing, which will also incur a fee?

For texts, the law says there must be an unsubscribe option such as ‘Reply “stop” to this number’. But this tells the sender your mobile is genuine and we all fear we’ll just get more texts from them (and it might well cost you a pretty penny to text or ring them to send the stop message).

Together with a group of nine other organisations, ranging from Citizens Advice to Privacy International, this week we have written to the Direct Marketing Association (which administers the TPS), Ofcom and the Information Commissioner to ask them to wake up and do something about this huge problem.

And we’d like your experiences so we can send them on too – are you fed up with nuisance sales calls?

How does the Telephone Preference Service work for you?

It’s rubbish - I get lots of nuisance calls (76%, 3,204 Votes)

It’s OK - I only get the odd nuisance call (15%, 615 Votes)

I’m not registered with the Telephone Preference Service (8%, 339 Votes)

It’s excellent - I don’t get any nuisance calls (1%, 35 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,196

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Comments
Guest
Becca says:
3 May 2013

I regularly (every couple of weeks) get calls from companies asking for the same person – not me. I always ask to be removed from the list, but the calls keep coming from different numbers. Today I got yet another call asking for the same man, and the guy on the phone was more helpful, and explained that my number was on a list of potential PPI claimants that they had bought, and that he would remove me from their system, but I would obviously continue to get calls from all the other companies who had bought the same list.

I’ve had this phone number for 12 years, so I assume it was just an initial error that led to my number being attached to someone else’s name. But now my number is on everybody’s databases! Also, I have absolutely no reason to be owed PPI compensation.

Question is; is it simply too late to be able to do anything about it? Shouldn’t there be a regulatory board you can submit your number to which companies are then forced to remove from their databases?
I’m already registered with TPS, but is there nothing else I can do?! This has been going for several years and it’s becoming very, very annoying.

Profile photo of RussellR
Guest

In theory, all these callers should vet their lists against TPS registrations, but given that a substantial number of the callers are themselves not legitimate they do not wish to waste their own time and money by observing the law.

Sadly the only way to temporarily reduce unwanted calls to a phone number is to change your number – but quite apart from the inconvenience to you, this will only work until the new number gets picked up by somebody. And of course a change will not defeat those who just call groups of numbers in sequence.

If you want to take the initiative though, to stop the received calls inconveniencing you too much, you could invest in caller display, an answerphone, or some form of call screening equipment which can be purchased fairly cheaply.

BT do have a paid for service where you can block certain incoming numbers, but this of course only works once the call has been received and I do not know if this works for calls from outside the UK, or falsified numbers, or where the calling number is withheld. You can completely block the latter, but of course there may be some people who withhold their number who you want to speak to, so this could cause you further inconvenience.

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Guest

Try this: do not answer unidentified caller for 3-5 rings. Most of the fakes ring off. Then if you are actually expecting a call pick up the phone. It cuts down the the amount of junk but you must accept the risk.

Guest
Lij4onok says:
16 May 2013

Hello, this is frustrating! I have registered for TPS for my mobile phone and it has done wanders. I do occasionally get weird text messages but I don’t mind just deleting them(and even those are decreasing). But it did not work with the landline. I keep being rung by the same person from a phone number that simply says ‘INTERNATIONAL out of area’. He has been ringing regarding PPI (apparently from London) for a long time now (though does not call it that just says I have paid off a loan back in 2007 and might be eligible for a refund on the insurance and needs to confirm my details). I have mentioned TPS and he says it is not a marketing call and he just needs me to confirm details. Obviously I can’t report him as I don’t have a proper number so I tried asking for it and his name and he told me to do what I feel best and what I fell I must do (but did not give me details), and that I am passing on this great opportunity. Then said that I don’t want money and hung up. This morning he rung up apparently from the Windows computer reporting … and I have been generating lots of error messages from my computer. I asked him about PPI but he stuck to his story about the Windows computers. To my reply telling I do not have a Windows computer he hung up. Oh and ignoring the phone calls doesn’t help he just keeps ringing. We even upset mum when she picked up and was extremely rude telling her that she is the cleaning lady and he will tell the owners the way she behaves with their calls (and this house is hers). He did stop for about 2 weeks but started up again.

Guest
graham says:
16 May 2013

keep a whistle by the phone and when he rings up…..you know what to do!!! that will teach him!

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Guest

If you are certain that this is the same individual, then the Police may regard it as sustained harassment. You need to stress the point that your Mother has been distressed by these calls. When I was plagued by silent phone calls from a hidden number, I made official complaints to both the Telecoms company and the Police. The latter suggested I change my number. I refused and insisted that I was victim of a criminal offence, and I wanted the line tapped. It was tapped and the culprit a marketing company was warned that they could be prosecuted unless they ceased the silent phone calls. However, the Police would not identify the culprit as this would breach the Data Protection Act. I would have needed to take civil action in a Court to identify them.
Phone records should reveal the number of times this man may have contacted you.
He is not likely to stop unless and until the police investigate the matter.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

We’ve also launched a new complaints tool so that you can find out where to complain about nuisance calls and texts: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/

And some good news for you. After calling on the government to strengthen the law on nuisance calls and texts, it has announced plans to clamp down on this menace. The government plans to:

• Make it easier for Ofcom and the ICO to share data about nuisance calling companies.
• Lower the threshold for the ICO to take enforcement action, meaning it won’t have to prove distress or substantial harm before fining rule breakers.

The ICO has also announced a joint action plan with Ofcom, answering our calls for the regulators to work closer together against nuisance calls and texts. Thanks to all of you for increasing the pressure!

Profile photo of maisey newcastle
Guest

I am getting at least 3 calls per day even though registered with TPS. There again I just can’t get through to TPS via e-mail. In fact when asked to check on line if my number was registered it said yes, then when I tried to e-mail them it said I was not registered!! So just what is going on?? TPS appear to not want to know these days. This service has deteriorated in my opinion.

Guest
Cliff Cordiner says:
8 November 2013

Yesterday I received five identical calls, all with the same recorded message about a government funded boiler. My caller display said that the number was “unavailable out of area”. I checked my phone log and I have received 103 similar calls about PPI, boilers, or unbelievable investment opportunities. Receiving five in one day to me seems like harrassment. I cannot shout abuse at them as they are recorded messages. As I was at work my answer machine took the calls and was clogged up with them, and I had to listen to them all to get to the real important messages. Once I received a call from a real person about a government funded boiler, and they quickly determined that I was not eligible for one. They have never called back, but i cannot shake off the large number of recorded messages. I am with the TPS, but it does not help much.

Profile photo of maisey newcastle
Guest

I have signed up with Nuicance Call Registry at a cost of £35 can anyone out there confirm if this is a legitimate company or have I fallen foul of a Scam? If so can I get my money back?? I am registered with TPS but I don’t think they do a very good job at preventing unwanted calls.

Guest

What did they tell you before you signed up? What are you getting? Did they say if they’re part of TPS?

Profile photo of william
Guest

It’s a scam, and you’ll probably struggle to get your money back.

Did they ring you up out of the blue ?

I would also suggest cancelling the card you used to make the payment, just in case.

Profile photo of william
Guest

Maybe not a scam , but see what the TPS has to say about them

http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/news1.html

Profile photo of maisey newcastle
Guest

Yes they did ring out of the blue, they said after 28 days ALL nuicance call would stop: [havn’t really] No did not say part of TPS. I have taken this up with local Trading Standards Office but have not yet had a reply. O dear, I am not usually that gullible! Will get back in touch asking for refund. Wish me luck.

Guest
Barny says:
20 May 2014

It’s simple just buy a phone that lets you know who is calling and don’t answer calls that say “call” or “withheld” or a number you are not familliar with. They will learn that you are not going to answer their call and get fed up trying eventually. It works for us.

Guest
Manchester Mike says:
20 May 2014

Having had a Truecall unit for 18 months we no longer even have the phone ring when one of these pests calls – which according to the log is about twice a day. Truecall gets rid of them and we don’t even know about it. At 67 I’ve got better things to do with my time than even look at the phone to see who it is. I let Truecall do that for me, and haven’t even been aware of any of these calls for a blissfully peaceful 18 months.

Sure. If you want to waste your time a minimum of twice a day dealing with the calls – forever – don’t spend the money. If you don’t, Truecall or a similar device is the answer. Best money we ever spent.

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Guest

The problem with ignoring ‘witheld’ calls is that they are used by doctors, hospitals etc.

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Guest

What you sayis correct Michael, however if you are not expecting a call from any one like this then as far as I am concerned we just ignore them . The same applies to unavailable calls unless you have someone abroad it is best to ignore these calls as nine out of ten calls are sales calls or scams

Guest
Angie says:
17 June 2014

Heard it all now. I am on TPS but get loads of calls, even though I have taking to answering my phone like I do my company one doesn’t deter some people.

Today it was Solar energy company who had the gall to tell me pv works in the dark! when I challenged his obviously poor knowledge of how systems work he was very rude! the phone number was 07410440089 but no name on the vm when I called back just the telephone providers standard message.

Guest
graham says:
17 June 2014

I have had 2 calls this week all pre-recorded soft soothing female voices..one for insulating your home one for getting a cheap loan. Press 5 to talk to our customer services…should I press 5 or is it a premium rate???/ who knows who cares clearly tps don’t!

Guest
rural telephone user says:
17 June 2014

Please consult a website like Mr Richard Herman’s http://www.saynotocoldcalls.com and act to claim compensation.

That the TPS is ineffective is not surprising. It’s owned by the DMA whose members make most of the nuisance calls.

Guest
Trevor Silkstone says:
29 October 2014

I am also sick of these calls from Asia, people who can hardly speak English, or you cannot hear what they say.
I am getting often 20 or more a day. It seems if you refuse to answer or tell them to p**s off they ring you more and more just to annoy.
I am disabled which means getting to the phone can be difficult at times.
I have been with TPS for over five years, I still get cold calls from PPI and heating firms.
I have reported this on the website but I still get them.
I am just sick of it If I did not need the internet I would not have a Phone installed at all.

Guest
P Robson says:
30 October 2014

Say NO to nuisance calls.

Are you fed up with nuisance phone calls? PPI claims, personal injury, insulation, new boilers, kitchen doors, market research, etc. Yeah me too!

Registering with the Telephone Preference Service was a total waste of time. Was still getting 4, 5, or 6 calls PER DAY. So I bought this little gizmo – the CPR CallBlocker. It’s very small, a doddle to install and easy to programme. All “International”, “Withheld” or “Unavailable” numbers can be blocked en-masse at a stroke. It’s been three weeks now, not a peep. Brilliant.

If you do get a call from a number you don’t want to hear from again, simply press the BLOCK NOW button and their number will be terminated with extreme prejudice.

What price is peace and quiet, and lowered blood pressure? Only £40 from CPR or Amazon.

Tip 1: You must have Caller ID facility.
Tip 2: If anyone you know regularly calls you but withholds their number it won’t get through. Tell them to put 1470 in front of the number they dial, it will override the Withhold function for that call only.

Don’t hesitate, it’s wonderful. Peace, perfect peace. Wish I had bought it ages ago.

[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

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Guest

Hi P Robson, thanks for your comment but just so you know it could come across as sounding a little like advertising. We’ve written about the CPR call blocker so if anyone would like to read up on it, I have added the link here: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/phones-3/cpr-call-blocker-vs-truecall-call-blocker/

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Guest

I wonder how useful these call blockers will be now that more fraudsters have started spoofing numbers?

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Guest

No use to me who needs to take calls from ‘unknown number’. !

Guest
P Robson says:
30 October 2014

Indeed. But it stops the phone ringing several times a day.

Guest
P Robson says:
30 October 2014

You can also block 00 numbers.

Guest
P Robson says:
30 October 2014

Sorry if it sounds like advertising Alex. Be assured it isn’t. Just very happy with the device an highly recommend it.

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Guest

Good idea, but it doesn’t stop nuisance calls to your mobile

Guest
Paul Hodgson says:
24 February 2015

We get loads of cold calls,partner is disabled and some of them are so rude. We ask for there names but it always comes bk garbled,always ask to b put on no call list doesn’t work. Usually same person but I said if it doesn’t stop get in touch wiv police, now its someone different all the time. Please as its making my partner poorly what can we do as she needs her phone and internet for day to day things, because when she gets upset I get upset so it snowballs so plz plz can u advise as I’ve tried nearly all the tricks etc but to no avail. Thankyou

Guest
Paul Hodgson says:
24 February 2015

Sorry forgot to mention its a landline we have. Thanks

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
Guest

Hi Paul, I’m sorry to hear about the influx of nuisance calls you’re getting – I know that they can be a real pain. Have you visited our really useful page about stopping unwanted calls here?:

http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/action/how-to-stop-nuisance-phone-calls-

Guest
Ross Woodward says:
29 April 2015

I thought it was illegal for companies to contact you and not provide details of who they were. Yet I constantly receive texts without any indication of who it is who is contacting me and constantly get calls from people who will not provide their company name or any registration details.

It needs to be made law that anybody can obtain details of the person who rang them. Simply contact your telephone company and a reverse directory search is done and the name and company of the bill payer should be provided.

Companies that use payg sims should be fined heavily and directors pursued criminally for doing so as it’s just another way of hiding from illicit activity.

It should also be illegal to operate web forms from locations where Whois masking is available. None of these firms have their websites here because they would have to register who they were on the public directory if they did. So you see lots of .so addresses where they allow masking of this information through use of 3rd parties.

Finally if there is a marketing message that breaks the law somebody needs to follow through using the service. In compensation cases often the person contacting you is not from the firm that will do the work. The firm that will do the work will be a registered Solicitor or Claims management company. They are actually responsible for ensuring the marketing used to get the work complies. However the only way that you will ever find out who they are in order to see them held to account is to actively raise a case with these marketing firms and see who it goes to.

There are so many breaches here in terms of Data Protection and marketing but since there is no way of finding out who they are or who they are working for there is absolutely nothing anybody can do about it, until that is solved then any regulations are utterly pointless.

Guest
June Cork says:
16 July 2015

Had the lot! Silent calls, PPI, accident pay-out, solar panels, alarm system, heating and of course the computer malfunction I never knew I had. My advice if you make the mistake of picking up the phone is simple: 1. lie, 2. lie, 3. lie. Now I ignore all calls and pick up only when I recognise the voice or am happy to accept the call. Am registered with TPS which doesn’t appear to have been particularly effective. If I pick up [thinking it was an expected call] and they start their blurb I pose a question: “Did I invite you to call me? No I did not, so thank you and good day” and put the phone down. Or if I’m feeling a bit bored I keep answering the caller questions to throw them off their prepared speech. I don’t know what the answer is, but until there is a robust Government/
Communications companies’ initiative put in place, we will continue to be plagued by these wretched unwanted intrusions into our lives – and not everyone can afford £35 to stop calls they didn’t ask for in the first place – although I have to say it sounds like a ‘wizard’ piece of kit.

Guest
June Cork says:
16 July 2015

for “answering” read “asking” in previous post. Doh!

Guest
Ruth Gosden says:
17 July 2015

I get nuisance calls at least twice daily to the point now that the moment I hear a foreign voice I just hang up. Normally they are for PPI, or want to check your computer. These calls somehow have to be stopped. Being elderly and disabled I am sick of rushing to the phone when I really don’t need to just to hang up.

Guest
R. S. Clymo says:
21 August 2015

We get three sorts of unsolicited phone calls.

(1) Silent
(2) Recorded information (quite agressive) that we don’t need or want
(3) A person. “Hi, I’m Henry. How are you?” said in a muffled foreign accent.

All are unwelcome because I have to stop work to answer the phone.

Frequency? About 3 to 5 a week.

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Guest

We are fed up with people calling our landline and our mobile with unwanted sales calls also call centres from abroad saying they have been given our information telling them we are seriously in debt and that they can help us, when I ask where they have got this information they say it’s from a government scheme and when I say we have no debt (which we don’t it’s all been paid off) they just hang up but thief call again the following night on another number. We have a phone that is supposed to block any calls you add to the block list but they still get through or they call on another number

Profile photo of GerryBassingthwaighte
Guest

We are a member of the TPS but this doesn’t stop organisations getting around it by claiming that you have “Shown an interest” in a survey. A week or so ago I received a call from someone claiming to be from a market research company and asking me to confirm a few details. He thought my name was “Gue” and I did not correct him. I explained to him that we were members of the TPS and that we did not appreciate being cold called. He said it was just a survey and if I wasn’t interested in any of the products, services or charities they represented, my name would be removed and not passed on. Clearly this did not happen because this morning (16/12/2015), I have already received calls from two UK organisations for Mr Gue. The first was from “We Fight Any Claim” trying to help me claim compensation for mis-sold PPI, and the second was from Diabetes UK. I asked both of them where they got my details from and they both said that I must have expressed an interest by ticking a box on a form or from a survey. I have asked both of them to remove my details from their databases, but I am sure this will not be the last nuisance call I get. You do wonder why so-called reputable companies and even charities are obtaining their contact databases from such dodgy sources.