Which? is calling for cold calling company bosses to be hit with fines of up to £500,000 under tough new rules that come into force today, as research shows nuisance calls continue to blight people’s lives across the UK.
In October 2016, the Government announced plans for directors of firms responsible for nuisance calls to be held personally accountable and fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they are found to be in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
The new rules were supposed to come into force in the spring of 2017 but were delayed, despite huge public support for the move. Nine out of 10 (86%) people Which? surveyed agreed that a director should be held personally responsible for a business that made nuisance calls.
The consumer champion believes it is now vital that the ICO tackles the scourge of nuisance calls by swiftly using these new powers to demonstrate that there will be no escape from tough action for those responsible for unwanted calls and texts.
Until now, while firms could be fined, company directors responsible for bombarding households with unwanted calls have been able to evade justice by dissolving the company and setting up a new business under a different name.
Billions of unsolicited calls have been made in the last year, with 10,000 reported to Which?’s helpline in the last six months alone. Recent research shows three-quarters (71%) of people receive at least one nuisance call a month.
Nearly all (99%) the reports of unwanted calls and texts Which? has received in the last six months have been described as causing some kind of emotional distress.
Six in 10 (58%) of the cold calls and texts reported made the people who received them feel annoyed or anxious.
A quarter (23%) were described as a disruption and one in five unsolicited calls or texts made the recipient feel distressed or upset.
The top three nuisance calls reported to Which? over the last six months were apparent scams, with the callers claiming to be from BT, HMRC and TalkTalk.
Half (49%) of the cold calls reported during this time were either automated, silent or spam text messages. The other half (51%) were live calls from salespeople.
Setting up an operation capable of making millions of unsolicited calls is surprisingly easy, with very little expense required on equipment, premises or staff.
Many people are often confused as to how they come to be inundated with nuisance calls but their contact details can end up on a list after entering an online competition or answering a lifestyle survey.
These details are then shared further by unscrupulous cold-calling firms.
Which? started campaigning against nuisance calls in 2013, amid growing concern about the level of unwanted communications bombarding households across the country.
Since then, more than half a million people have signed up to the campaign and it has resulted in measures including reducing the legal threshold for the ICO to issue firms responsible for cold calling with large fines as well as making it mandatory for marketing firms to display a valid caller ID.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:
“For too long people have been plagued with nuisance calls while those responsible have been able to evade justice and set up under a different name.
“The introduction of fines for bosses of these companies is a significant step and the regulator must now act swiftly to properly police and fine those who flout the law – demonstrating that there is no place in our society for these practices.”
Notes to Editors:
- Data collated from the Which? nuisance calls tool. The tool enables people to report any unsolicited calls and text and then Which? sends the complaint to the regulator. The information provided helps to identify major and repeat offenders.
- Which? found that more than seven in 10 (73%) people believing they’ve received an unsolicited marketing or sales call in the last month.
- Earlier this year, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed that 2.7 billion unsolicited calls, texts and emails were about personal injury claims or PPI.
- Which? has campaigned to end nuisance calls and texts since 2013, including leading the UK Government’s nuisance calls taskforce which produced 15 recommendations. Progress has been made on Which?’s calls, with the UK Government reducing the legal threshold for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to act and issue firms with fines of up to £500,000 in April 2015.
- Since Which? Launched the Calling Time on Nuisance calls campaign over 130,000 cold calls and texts have been reported. People can report nuisance calls via Which?’s tool at: www.which.co.uk/report-nuisance-calls