Which? calls time on nuisance calls and texts

Which? launches a new campaign calling time on nuisance calls and texts, as we find that in the last three months seven in 10 people (70%) received unsolicited calls and four in ten (40%) an unwanted text.

We want more to be done to stop consumers receiving unsolicited calls and texts. We’re calling on all of the relevant regulators – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading – to set up a joint taskforce to cut off unwanted calls and texts, starting by looking at the Personal Injury and Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) claims industries which people tell us they are most likely to receive calls from.

In a separate Which? investigation we found one in four Which? members who made a claim on their car insurance were contacted by a claims management company (CMC) within three months. Nearly half of these were contacted in a week, and many were bombarded by repeated calls and texts – 22% received 10 or more texts and 12% received 10 or more calls.

To cut off nuisance calls and texts, Which? wants the joint taskforce to:

·        POLICE - proactively and forensically scrutinise the activities of the Personal Injury and PPI industries over the next 12 weeks to expose the source of the problem;

·        PUNISH - if it finds evidence of rule breaking regulators must take strong enforcement action including substantial fines and suspension of licences;

·        PUBLISH - make public its recommendations for any new powers regulators require to cut off nuisance calls, and to share all appropriate information from its investigations.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said.

“Unwanted calls or texts are not just a nuisance, they can be intrusive and distressing. Many of us have been bombarded with spurious claims of PPI or injury compensation, and people are telling us they are totally fed up with this nuisance and want to see action. We want the regulators to work together to properly police and punish those responsible for unwanted calls and texts, using the existing law. If they are unwilling or unable to enforce the rules, the Government should step in.

“Our research once again shows that the behaviour of unscrupulous claims management companies must be tackled to stop those exploiting consumers who could claim compensation for free themselves. We want to see tougher regulation from the Government to clean up the CMC industry.”

To tackle nuisance calls and texts, Which? also wants insurers and other companies that hold personal information to be more upfront about how they intend to use this data. Consent needs to be clearly explained at each stage of the application and claim process. Companies must ensure they are following the rules by obtaining active opt-in consent for any third-party marketing. It is a positive move that from April insurers won’t be able to sell on details of personal injury claims.

Which? would like people to leave their experiences of nuisance calls and texts at:  www.which.co.uk/coldcalling

Notes to Editors

1.       Between 6th and 10th February 2013, TNS on behalf of Which? conducted a face to face survey of 1,000 UKadults to ask their experiences of cold calling. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK population. In November 2012, we also asked 1,585 Which? members who had made a claim on their car insurance whether they had been contacted by a CMC.

2.       Which? research found that the most common types of unsolicited calls on landlines were from companies selling financial products or services (e.g. PPI claims or insurance) (53%); accident claim companies (33%); silent calls (27%); sales calls in non-financial sector  (27%) (e.g. double glazing, mobile phones and utilities); market research surveys (26%); and companies offering a change of service such as mobile phones or utilities (24%).

3.       From April 2013 the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) will ban insurers from receiving payment for passing customer details to a CMC or a legal firm following a personal injury claim. However, this won’t cover non-injury claims such as car repairs.

4.       Which? has previously campaigned against poor practice in the CMC industry, especially companies targeting consumers mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI). We have called for a ban on upfront fees and for CMCs to be required to publish online all of their terms and conditions, fees and charges. We are currently waiting on a response from the Claims Management Regulator on a consultation on changes to the Conduct of Authorised Persons Rules, which govern the CMC’s code of conduct.

5.       If you think you’ve been mis-sold PPI, it’s easy to claim it back yourself for free. Just visitwww.which.co.uk/ppi and follow our free, quick and easy guide to making a claim.

6.       To help avoid being hassled by nuisance calls and texts, Which? has some top tips to reduce the risk of receiving them:

·        Never opt-in to third party marketing when you take out an insurance policy. If you make a claim tell your insurer you don’t want to be contacted by a CMC or legal firm.

·        Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). If you are registered with the TPS and still receive calls, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 0303 123 1113. If you are with Orange, O2, T-Mobile or Vodafone you can forward spam texts to 7726. If you’re a Three user, text 37726.

·        Set up call barring – many cold calls come from abroad, so you could ask your phone operator to block calls from international numbers.

·        Don’t respond to spam texts. Even texting the word ‘stop’ alerts the sender that the phone is active and in use. If you do receive spam texts, you can report them to your network provider or to the ICO.

·        Note the number – if possible get the cold call phone number (for example through dialing 1471). This helps organisations such as Ofcom to investigate.

·        Screen calls – if you have caller display and an answer phone, consider only answering calls from numbers you recognise. Don’t answer unsolicited emails or return unrecognised calls as again you will be letting the company know your details are ‘live.’

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