From time to time we have all received sales calls that we didn’t want or request.
While some people don’t mind them as they may offer something of interest, others find these calls annoying and an intrusion. Sometimes information can be passed between companies meaning that certain individuals may end up getting several of these types of calls a week.
If you’re fed up receiving these calls there is something you can do about it.
NUISANCE OR MALICIOUS CALLS
The making of calls of a malicious nature is covered under Section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. It states:
43. - (1) A person who-
(a) sends, by means of a public telecommunications system, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or
(b) sends by those means, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, a message that he knows to be false or persistently makes use for that purpose of a public telecommunications system, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
The above is subject to criminal law. OFCOM advises consumers to report instances to the police who can liaise with telephone companies to address the problem. Some companies, such as BT, operate a Nuisance Call Bureau who will attempt to resolve complaints of this nature.
If you receive an unwanted direct marketing telephone call, the person making that call is obliged, under the Regulations, to identify the company or organisation making the call and, when requested by you, either its address or a freephone telephone number on which it can be contacted.
You can stop marketing calls from a particular company by simply telling them not to call you. When you receive an unwanted marketing call simply ask them to remove your details from their database.
Under the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999 you can "opt out" from receiving unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls. This means that individuals cannot be telephoned by a live operator, for direct marketing purposes, if they have previously notified the caller that such unsolicited calls should not be made on that line.
If the calls continue having previously notified the caller that they are unwanted, then the caller will be in breach of the Regulations.
TELEPHONE PREFERENCE SERVICE (TPS)
In addition, individuals can also register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The TPS is an opt out scheme run by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) on behalf of the Director General of Telecommunications (OFCOM)
The TPS is effectively an additional privacy safeguard available to individuals and businesses. It is a list of individual subscribers who do not wish to receive unsolicited telephone calls for direct marketing purposes. The DMA controls the list on behalf of OFCOM. A direct marketer will be in breach of the Regulations if they contact any subscriber on the list.
The best way of stopping unwanted calls is to register your number with the TPS - they’ll add you to their list of numbers that don’t want to receive sales and marketing calls and texts. This will help to block nuisance calls. It’s illegal for a company to call or text numbers registered with the TPS, so registering should scare companies away and stop them bothering you. It’s a free service and it’s easy to register. You’ll need your phone number, postcode and an email address to sign up on the TPS website. You can also sign up from your mobile by texting ‘TPS’ and your email address to 85095.
For more information about the TPS, call 0845 070 0707 or visit their website.
If a telephone number has been registered on the TPS for over 28 days, and they are still receiving telephone calls for direct marketing purposes, the owner of the number can complain to the TPS. The TPS will contact the company concerned, and then include the complaint on its regular report to The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO)
We would advise individuals and companies, who do not want to receive unsolicited telephone calls for direct marketing purposes, to contact the TPS for further advice and information:
Telephone Preference Service
70 Margaret Street
Tel: 0845 070 0707
Fax: 020 7323 4226
THE INFORMATION COMMISIONERS OFFICE (ICO)
The Regulations, including the TPS, are enforced by the ICO.
We would advise individuals and companies, who believe that any regulations have been breached, to contact the ICO for further advice and assistance:
Tel: 0303 123 1113
Fax: 01625 524 510
The fact that you have opted for an ex-directory telephone number will not, in itself, protect you from receiving unsolicited telephone calls for direct marketing purposes. Ex-directory service will ensure that your telephone operator does not print your details in any published Phone Book or enable access to your number via a directory enquiry service. It may help to reduce unsolicited telephone calls of this type because certain direct marketing businesses use the Phone Book to identify potential customers. Customer data can however be compiled through other means such as buying lists, and you should be aware of this whenever you provide details of your telephone number to companies with whom you do business. Many will ask you to opt out of them being allowed to pass on this information.
PRODUCTS TO BLOCK NUISANCE CALLS
There are products to block some calls (like international calls or withheld numbers) available, however be careful as these can also sometimes end up blocking calls you may want.
Call blocking products are often small boxes that effectively screen your calls, connecting those you want, and blocking those you don’t. Units can keep a list of ‘friends and family’ numbers so it can put them straight through if they call. However, if the caller isn’t on the list it then certain units will do further checks such as asking them to state their name – if they do so, your phone will ring, the unit will announce who’s on the line, and you can decide if you want to speak to them or not.
Many units also come pre configured with known nuisance numbers already blocked and some have a quick block button that can be pushed to immediately add the current caller to the units blocked list.
Scam calls go beyond being just an annoyance. These are often calls from people trying to obtain money or information about individuals by tricking the recipient of the call. This is a criminal activity and so even being registered with the TPS is unlikely to put a scammer off. Callers will often claim to be investment companies, banks, phone companies, utility companies or anyone they can think of that might make them seem credible.
To report a scam, contact: Action Fraud - it is the UK’s national fraud reporting centre. If you’ve been scammed, ripped off or conned, you can report the fraud to them on 0300 123 20 40
If you receive a text message from a sender you are familiar with, or from a shortcode (a shortcode is usually 5 digits long but can be up to 8), reply ‘STOP' to the telephone number or short code shown in the text message. This will inform the sender that you no longer wish to receive their text messages. However, if the text message is from an unknown sender, or from a sender you are not familiar with, we recommend you don't reply. Responding to the text will confirm that your number is active and might actually result in you receiving more messages, or even voice calls. Instead, you may report the text to your network operator.
To report a spam text forward the text to 7726. You may get an automated response thanking you for the report and giving you further instructions if needed. You will not be charged for sending texts to 7726. An easy way to remember ‘7726' is that they are the numbers on your telephone keypad that spell out the word ‘SPAM'. If you are unhappy about receiving such texts, or continue to receive them after informing the relevant company to stop, you should complain to the TPS using the same details as above.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is responsible for enforcing the rules on spam texts. The ICO has powers to investigate any suspected breaches of the regulations, and take enforcement action against any organisation found to be in breach the rules.
Your complaint can provide real benefits, both for you as an individual and for consumers generally. This is because complaints play a vital role in helping regulators tackle the companies responsible for nuisance calls and messages. Without your complaints, regulators would find it much harder to identify and take action against those responsible. Although complaining may not put a complete or immediate stop to all your nuisance calls or messages, it does help regulators take more targeted action in this area. Making a complaint is simple. You can do it online, by phone or by post, and it can take as little as 5 minutes.
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