/ Home & Energy, Technology

Time to give cold callers the cold shoulder

Person making phone call

At best an invasive annoyance, at worst intimidating and threatening. Unwanted sales and marketing ‘cold’ calls can be enough to drive anyone to despair.

The other day, I was just settling down to my dinner and my landline rang. It was a recorded message from a ‘government organisation’ telling me the great news that they could clear all my debt within a year.

Fantastic! Apart from the fact that: 1) Other than my mortgage (and the occasional use of my overdraft), I’m in the fortunate position of having no debt; and 2) There was a high chance I had just been targeted by one of a number of cold call scams doing the rounds, which prey on peoples’ insecurities in a bid to con them out of their hard-earned cash.

Needless to say, I hung up.

Big household names among most frequent cold callers

It’s not just scammers that interrupt our daily lives at inconvenient times, though – big businesses use it as a marketing tactic too. According to a two-week diary kept by 737 Which? members, British Gas, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Homeserve, EDF and Eon were among companies calling most often.

I should add that by ‘cold calling’ I include sales and marketing calls from companies I’m already a customer of, which might partially explain why companies with a big customer base are often the biggest ‘cold-callers’.

75% want cold calls banned

So are cold calls becoming the nation’s worst nightmare? They’re certainly among the most common – our recent investigation showed two thirds of you are likely to have received at least one cold call recently.

We asked more than 2,000 people about their recent cold call experiences, and found they’d received an average of six to seven calls a month. What’s more, one in four people have felt intimated by cold calls, and one in five has felt pressured by a cold-caller to buy something.

Clearly, some people buy products or services off the back of a cold call, otherwise why would companies bother? But they must be in a small minority. These stats reflect badly on many companies responsible for cold calling, especially since there are rules in place to prevent unfair or aggressive sales tactics.

How to cut cold calls

I’m registered with the Telephone Preference Service for both my mobile and landline, which automatically opts me out of many companies calling me for sales and marketing.

There are other things you can do to avoid cold calling too. I avoid giving my number out where possible, and always ask not to be added to sales and marketing lists. If you ask a company not to call you for sales and marketing purposes, they’re not allowed to do so – even if you’re already a customer.

My evasive manoeuvres seem to have done the trick with many cold calls, as I don’t remember the last time I received a cold-call that I couldn’t identify as a likely criminal scam.

Sadly, it’s unlikely that criminals will ever respect cold calling regulation so I can look forward to the odd scam-call for the foreseeable future – my best hope is to be out when they call.


” …or reach some kind of international agreement on nuisance calls?”

What makes you think foreign governments have a grip on the situation? When I was working in India, staff were being cold-called at their place of work to be offered personal loans and other “services”. When I protested that I was a British resident and had no use for an Indian loan, I was asked if I would go out with the caller on a date.

It gives a new twist to the term nuisance call – and they definitely got the “cold shoulder”!

Just had a Zenith representative knock on my front door, despite having a no cold callers sign. So a little bit of digging on line I found this.


So I’ve emailed Zenith and cc’d Surrey trading standards if they do it again they’re commiting a criminal act 🙂 So check to see if there’s an equiv scheme in force in your area

The indian call desks calling about a fault on my PC are evolving their message as to who they are.
I think it is also terrible that UK companies including solicitors use Indian call desks as they know it is illegal for them to cold call.

Pauline Hopkins says:
22 March 2013

The best way of dealing with nuisance calls, on your mobile or main telephone,
is to tell them that the person they are calling no longer lives there.

With the mobile, do not answer it, unless it is a number you regonise.
They rarely ring again in the week.

FrankO says:
22 March 2013

If only it were that simple! Tell them the person they’re calling no longer lives there and they ask if you are the current owner.
Answering only if you recognize the number IS sensible, and you can get the number displayed with a landline, just like a mobile, assuming your phone has a one-line display, by registering for Caller ID (free for the majority of accounts with BT).
A couple of points about the (unwonderful) TPS… The telephone preference service is paid for by the marketing industry. Small wonder, then, that it has gums and not teeth. And if your nuisance call is a recording, you can’t complain about it via the TPS. Nuisance recordings are a matter for the Information Commissioner’s Office!! As usual our politicians and lawyers have managed to get a scenario that makes no sense whatsoever to the man in the street!

After an RTA in a car park with nobody in the car in 2010, I have been plagued with calls regarding personal injury-despite being a member of the Telephone Preferences Agency & explaining this to callers, the calls persisted until the file was eventually closed. It is a disgrace that private details are given out without consent and lives made a misery!

I recently had a mobile phone voicemail message from a cold caller. What got me particularly angry was the fact that I had to pay to retrieve the message.


Carly Buxton says:
14 September 2015

The nuisance calls are just that – a nuisance. But with things like PPI, some are unaware they are even owed money until they receive these phone calls. That is one way that the banks have contacted those that are owed.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our community guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Cold calls are so bad they make land lines not fit for purpose . The first company to introduce land lines without cold calls would corner the market.
Isn’t it about time instead of bt reaping revenue from cold calls . They were find for not discouraging them