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How do I stop nuisance calls?

How do you stop cold callers? That task might now have become much easier, as the prospect of big fines being imposed for offenders has become more likely.

At the end of 2014 the law contained in the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations was relatively lenient and hardly anybody has ever been fined for making unsolicited cold calls. At Zebra Connections Telephone Answering Service, almost 30% of the calls we take on behalf of our clients are unwanted sales calls.

One means of reducing the number of cold calls you receive is to subscribe to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). It’s free to use, and normally stops most unwanted calls within 28 days. However, many telemarketing firms simply ignore it or continue to use out of date information, meaning that you will still receive nuisance calls. There are also plenty of unscrupulous overseas call centres that are beyond the reach of UK law.

If you’ve got Caller Display then it might be advisable not to answer the phone if the call is from a “WITHHELD”, “Private” or other unrecognised number.  But there are many perfectly respectable organisations that withhold their numbers, and if you didn’t answer you might be missing an important call.

One solution is to be very careful about who you give your number to, especially when it comes to filling in online forms. This data is often sold on to other companies. A friend of mine needed a cracked windscreen repaired and was plagued with calls from accident claims companies for months afterwards. You can also try waiting for the the phone to ring at least 4 times before you answer. A lot of telemarketing companies will give up after that length of time.

A more robust plan might, however, soon be at hand to help solve the problem. A British Government consultation is discussing whether to lower the threshold that needs to be proven by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a fine to be levied. Currently, telemarketing companies can only be prosecuted if they cause “substantial harm or significant distress”. This is a very high burden of proof, and the government now wants to make it easier to punish offenders by lowering the threshold to just causing “annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety”. Maximum fines are likely to be £500,000.

The consultation closes on 7th December 2014.

© Alan Hopgood 2014



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