/ 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The Nigerian email scam (‘I need to transfer money to a UK bank account, just give me some first’) has been superseded by phishing emails (‘I need to check your bank security details’).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

Loading ... Loading ...
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.


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.


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.

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.

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!


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.


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!