Action needs to heat up on cold calls

Which? is urging Government, regulators and businesses to renew their efforts to call time on nuisance calls and texts as complaints continue to rack up in the tens of thousands.

In December, an official nuisance calls and texts task force – chaired by Which? – outlined 15 recommendations to introduce tougher rules and more action from businesses, the regulators and the Government. However, new Which? analysis of data from the Information Commissioner’s Office shows that since the task force reported, there have been around 61,500 official complaints about nuisance calls and texts. With just 2% of people who receive unwanted calls reporting them to the regulator, it means millions more are still being received.

After finding that a quarter (24%) of people don’t know where to complain when they receive an unwanted call, we’re making it easier by launching a new online complaints tool so offenders can be identified and punished. We are urging consumers to report nuisance calls and texts to give regulators the vital evidence they need to take action against companies breaking the rules.

Nearly 200,000 people have backed our Calling Time campaign, and major companies like BT and SSE have publicly pledged their support – Which? wants to see continued action from Government, regulators and businesses to put an end to nuisance calls and texts.

We want:

  • the Government to make senior executives accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls, and require businesses to show their number when they call. Our new research found that eight in 10 people (79%) support greater accountability over nuisance calls including directors being personally fined if their company breaks the rules.
  • businesses to support our campaign by making a public commitment to tackle nuisance calls.
  • regulators to give people more power by putting them in control of how their personal data is used.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:

“Despite a clear action plan from the nuisance calls task force, it’s disappointing that so many unwanted calls and texts are still being received. People are sick of being bombarded with nuisance calls that invade their privacy and waste their time.

“The Government knows what’s required to tackle nuisance calls, so we need to see more sustained action, with senior executives held to account, to help put an end to this everyday menace.”

Notes to Editors

1.            Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2086 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.

2.            People can report unwanted calls for free on the Which? website at  www.which.co.uk/callingtime

3.            Which? launched its Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, which has almost 200,000 supporters, after finding around eight in 10 people (83%) had received a nuisance call on their land line in the previous month. Eight in 10 people found these calls an annoying interruption, while one third felt intimidated by them. More than 50,000 complaints have been logged on the Which? Nuisance calls online complaint tool, with around half going on to complain to the regulator.

4.            In December 2014, the Which?-led Task Force made 15 recommendations for business, regulators and the Government. The recommendations focused on:

Calling on businesses to improve their direct marketing practices

  • Businesses to make compliance with the rules on consumer consent a board level matter, with senior executives held to account for the behaviour of their company.
  • Companies should allow consumers to easily revoke consent to being contacted and view Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance on a six-month time limit for third party consent as the minimum standard.
  • Marketing companies should ensure any sales leads they buy have been fairly and legally obtained and that they have a record of consumer consent being given.

Urging further action by the regulators

  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should take account of the TF findings in any work it undertakes on the commercial use of personal data. We recommend the CMA should work with other regulators to understand issues which cause consumer harm and identify action to remedy problems.
  • The ICO should develop further practical solutions to causes of nuisance calls; and develop best practice for providing information to consumers, including wording for how people opt-in and opt-out of being contacted for marketing purposes.

Recommended action for Government

  • Government should lead a cross-sector business awareness campaign to ensure companies know their responsibilities when it comes to making marketing calls and texts; and consider how future legislation could tackle nuisance marketing, including making senior executives more responsible for the actions of their company.

Since publishing, the CMA has committed to reviewing personal data and the Government has committed funding to an awareness campaign. However action is still needed on other task force recommendations.

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