Hanging Up On Nuisance Cold Calls?
In a triumphant move for anyone who has ever received a nuisance telephone call from a company trying to sell them something they don’t want or need, or when the ‘person’ on the other end of the line says nothing at all or even just hangs up, the government is consulting on heavier fines for these cold callers and making it easier to fine them, too.
At the moment, firms who make unsolicited, or cold, calls to a household’s landline can only be punished if the calls cause “substantial damage”. Some domestic telephone numbers are registered with TPS (Telephone Preference Service) which means they shouldn’t receive marketing phone calls, in fact, it is illegal for companies to cold call these numbers. Obviously, some people have consented to their phone number being used for marketing purposes, but those with TPS shouldn’t have to worry about that – yet some of them still receive unsolicited phone calls.
Some companies openly disregard the rules about TPS, possibly because they think the rules do not apply to them because they are overseas, or they are not aware because they are not members of the telemarketing industry Direct Marketing Association. Other firms are just plain fraudsters trying to get their hands on the money of the person on the other end of the call. Either way, any of these companies who do not follow the TPS rules can be fined up to half a million pounds, and those who make silent or abandoned calls (which is against the rules made by media regulator Ofcom), can be charged up to £2 million.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received more than 120,000 complaints about cold-calling firms between April and November last year, and the government now wants to take action against these companies who cause annoyance, anxiety, inconvenience or nuisance with this kind of phone call.
“Nuisance calls must stop,” said Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture. She explained that although some people feel irritated by these unwanted phone calls, others become genuinely distressed from the intrusion to their lives. “People needs to feel safe and secure in their homes,” she added. “The rules are clear… We will work to ensure their choice is respected.”
According to research from last September by Which?, the consumer company, around 80% of people had been in receipt of at least one cold call at home within the previous month, and 48% had gotten a text message on their mobile along the same lines.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the increase to the fines should prove the seriousness of the matter, and that although the Claims Management Regulator already punishes companies who break the rules, “these fines will give us an extra weapon to drive bad behaviour out of the industry”.
It could still be some time before cold calls are completely a thing of the past, but they are being stamped out until the day comes when we pick up our home telephone and we know for sure that it will actually be someone worth talking to on the other end.