Nuisance calls crackdown: the progress so far

One year on from the first report by the Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force, we’ve found some good progress but there is still more to do.

Our latest research for our Calling Time campaign has shown nuisance calls still remain an issue for consumers, with three quarters (74%) of people with a landline receiving unwanted calls in a month. Calls to mobile phones have also been on the rise with seven in 10 (72%) saying they had at least one nuisance call to their mobile in the space of a month compared to more than half (55%) in 2013.

Last week we launched our Calling Time campaign in Scotland, which was supported by more than 8,000 people within three days.

The Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force called for action from businesses and industry bodies, from regulators and by Government. We’ve found some good progress being made but, one year on, we are calling for further action from businesses and for the Government to give the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) more powers to hold board level executives to account if they’re found flouting the rules.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Despite some good progress, we’re still seeing high levels of unwanted calls and texts so more needs to be done to put an end to this everyday menace once and for all.

“The Government, regulators and business need to continue to work together to tackle this problem, with further action to cut nuisance calls off at source and make senior executives accountable if their company is caught flouting the rules.”

Summary of progress following the Nuisance Calls and Texts Task Force report:

Actions by businesses and industry bodies to improve their direct marketing practices

  • There has been some progress from big business and the third sector, for example SSE has made one of its directors accountable for nuisance calls and telecoms providers are working with Ofcom to identify nuisance call activities.  The Charity Commission, the Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Standards Board are working with the ICO.
  • However, the majority of companies have not announced or committed to making nuisance calls a board level issue.

Actions for regulators

  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a report on the commercial use of consumer data and has committed to play a role in any future regulation on this issue. The ICO is revising its guidance and has mystery shopped firms making unsolicited marketing calls and texts. It will also be holding workshops and consultations in the New Year looking at the wording of marketing consent.
  • Ofcom is developing a process to register mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) by text and has opened a consultation to review its policy on how it tackles silent and abandoned calls under the Communications Act.

Actions for Government

  • The Government has made it easier for the ICO to fine companies who are found to be making cold calls, and we’ve seen a number of hefty fines over the past year.
  • However, there’s been no progress on giving the ICO more powers to hold board level executives to account if they’re found flouting the rules – a key ask of our Calling Time campaign. We are also still waiting on the Government to consult on legislation to introduce Caller Line Identification for marketing calls, making it simpler for people to see who is calling them. As yet, an awareness campaign aimed at businesses has not been launched and the Government also need to assess new policies, to ensure they do not lead to nuisance calls.

Which? has enabled over 50,000 people to register their mobiles with the TPS through its free text tool. Consumers can register by texting OPT OUT to 80057.

Notes to editors

  1. Our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign has been supported by more than 300,000 people. There have been more than 67,000 uses of the Which? nuisance calls reporting tool, enabling people to complain to the regulators.
  2. In December 2014, the Which?-led Task Force made 15 recommendations for business, regulators and the UK Government. The recommendations can be found here.
  3. The energy company SSE is the first major company to sign up to all campaign calls, putting a stop to cold calling in 2013 and recently announcing a senior director who will be held responsible if the company is found to be making nuisance calls.
  4. Methodology on nuisance calls to mobiles: Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed a representative sample of 2,097 UK adults between 4 and 6 September 2015. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

For 2013 figure: Populus interviewed a representative sample of 2,065 UK adults online between 25 and 26 September 2013. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

Methodology on nuisance calls to landlines: Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,086 UK adults online between 10th and 12th April 2015. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the UK population.

Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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