New proposals to tackle nuisance calls

New plans are being set out by the UK Government to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls.
New plans are being set out by the UK Government to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls.

New plans are being set out by the UK Government to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls.

Direct marketing companies will have to display their telephone numbers under the proposals.

Unsolicited direct marketing calls can cause significant stress and anxiety, particularly to those people who rely on the telephone as their main means of keeping in touch with friends and loved ones.

At best these calls are a source of irritation and at worst they can lead to people falling foul of scammers.

Research shows that around one in five live and automated direct marketing calls that were reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as a nuisance call did not provide valid caller ID.

The proposal is to make it a requirement for direct marketing callers to provide valid Calling Line Identification (CLI) to tackle this problem head on.

It will help: improve consumer choice, by making it easier for people to refuse and report unwanted marketing calls; and make it easier for the ICO to investigate and take enforcement action against callers that persistently and deliberately break the rules.

UK companies found breaching the law by making nuisance calls can be fined up to £1/2 million depending on the type of calls and severity of the case.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for data protection, said: “Being pestered by marketing calls is annoying at the best of times and at its worst it can bring real misery for the people on the receiving end.

“There is no simple solution to the problem of nuisance calls, but making direct marketing companies display their telephone number will help consumers and regulators take action.

“Companies are already being financially punished when they blatantly flout the rules, and mandatory caller ID is just another step we are taking as part of a closely coordinated effort with regulators, industry and consumer groups to tackle the problem.”

Over the past few years there has been a substantial rise in the number of concerns reported to the ICO about nuisance marketing calls and texts, with an increase of over 11 per cent in 2014/15 alone.

Latest figures from consumer group Which? show that in Scotland:

Nine in 10 Scots (91 per cent) have received nuisance calls on their landline.

Three in 4 (75 per cent) Scots said receiving cold calls had actually discouraged them from picking up their home phone when it rings.

People say they received an average of 10 cold calls on their landline, with the most common calls being about Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) (66 per cent), silent calls (55 per cent) and the Green Deal or energy efficiency measures including boilers and double glazing (52 per cent).

More than 90 per cent of people agreed that nuisance calls are an annoying interruption to their daily life and 4 in 10 (40 per cent) said they felt intimidated by them.

This latest move is part of recent action from Government to tackle the issue. Government has already made it easier for the ICO to: Punish the companies making nuisance calls by removing the legal threshold for taking action; and more effectively share information with the Ofcom in relation to nuisance calls.

Since January 2012, the ICO has issued fines totalling nearly £2m for serious cases of nuisance calls.

In September 2015, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) was fined £200,000 for making over six million nuisance calls as part of a massive automated call marketing campaign.

The six-week consultation closes on February 23 and following this, the UK Government plans to bring the measure into force in spring 2016.