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Industry Research : Five Steps to Beat the Cold Callers
London, UK, June 19, 2015 — While the majority of us consider them deeply annoying it is the elderly who are arguably more vulnerable because they’re most likely to answer their landlines and least likely to have caller-ID installed, which would enable them to ignore unfamiliar numbers.
Cold calling is a modern-day scourge that has made picking up the phone in expectation of a pleasant conversation or an urgent personal communication fraught with the frustration of discovering that the interruption is an unknown sales person who is pretending to be your friend.
The problem has reached epic proportions in recent months and Ofcom has received more than 61,500 official complaints since December.
Now Which? has launched a campaign to force the Government to do more to end the endless irritation of unwanted marketing calls. Information commissioner Christopher Graham, who heads the office responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, describes the cold-calling business as "the dirty trade in people’s personal details".
One call centre raided by his office in March was discovered to be making up to six million nuisance calls a day using sophisticated technology. The company in Hove, East Sussex, reportedly held more than 90 million numbers – more than one for every person in the UK.
Investigators said the centre would routinely call every number in its database via an automatic computer system and – after exhausting the list – would restart the process. With just two per cent of those who receive unwanted calls reporting them to the regulator it is likely that around three million of us have received irritating calls since the Government set up a task force last December.
Chaired by Which? it outlined 15 recommendations for action on such calls and texts. But the problem persists.
"People are sick of being bombarded with nuisance calls that invade their privacy and waste their time," says Richard Lloyd, executive director of the campaigning consumer rights charity and responsible for the Which? Calling Time campaign. Which? is now asking the Government, regulators and businesses to renew their efforts to solve the problem.
In the meantime what can you do to stop unwanted telephone calls, who are the culprits making them and how can you complain? Follow our survivors’ guide to beating cold calls.
Register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS): Call 0845 0700707 or www.tpsonline.org.uk UK-based companies are barred from making unsolicited calls to TPS-registered phone numbers, although calling the number will not stop computer-generated calls or calls from companies based abroad. Firms that still call you are breaking the law and you can report them to the TPS if you record the time and date of the call and note the telephone number and company name. If the number does not come up on your phone, dial 1471 after the call and pass the details on to Ofcom so it can take action. If you still get nuisance calls 28 days after contacting the TPS you can make a complaint by going to https://complaints. tpsonline.org.uk/consumer or by calling the TPS number above. If you do receive an unwanted cold call ask the person at the other end of the line to delete all of your details from their records. Ask: "Is this a marketing call?" Then say: "I do not accept marketing calls at this number. Please remove me from your records immediately." Then hang up. It is also a good idea to put the request in writing by asking for their address so that there is a record if the calls persist. Whether the firm does take you off their records is another matter entirely but at the very least this suggestion enables you to take swift control of the conversation and put the phone down quickly in a firm but polite way.
There are some companies who use online or paper phone books to find numbers to target with sales calls so call your phone provider and ask to be removed from all public listings. Screen your calls. Although this won’t prevent a call it will save you the nuisance of actually having to deal with it. Phones with caller-ID (where the number of the person calling you is revealed on a screen) are a handy and practical solution.
Unfortunately many unlicensed cold calls come from abroad. Consider asking your phone company to block calls from international numbers to ensure that you are disturbed less frequently. Keep your name off call lists in the first place. Registering with the TPS will not stop calls when you have opted in by ticking a box on an online form so read forms carefully when you sign up for new services and always tick, or untick, the box in which you agree to opt in or out of direct marketing. Data protection laws ban companies from calling you for marketing purposes if you have asked them not to, even if you are a customer.
Which? found that a quarter of people don’t know where to complain when they receive an unwanted call. They have therefore set up a new online tool where you can report nuisance calls to provide the evidence regulators need to take action against fi rms breaking the rules.
A study in November 2014 found that of the 15,000-plus nuisance call and text complaints made to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) 2,377 were about solar panels and 1,830 about payment protection insurance (PPI). Other services included accident claims, boilers, debt, banking and lifestyle surveys. Why are some calls automated? Organisations make automated calls to generate "leads" which they sell on to fi rms who offer the service – such as personal injury claims – mentioned in the message. The trade in your personal details is big business, with firms willing to pay ever larger amounts to get their hands on them.
Punishments available to the new task force headed by Which? following a change in the law in April this year include personal fines for the directors of companies behind the harassment. In the past firms could only be punished if the ICO could provide evidence they had caused "substantial distress" which was difficult to prove legally. It is now easier for regulators to act and companies can now be fined up to £500,000 following the change in the law.
- Never pass on your bank or personal details to firms that cold call you, even if they claim to be from a company you know.
- Never lose your temper. Be firm and hang up if the caller refuses to go away.
- Never call back phone numbers left on your voicemail or reply to text messages you don’t recognise.
- Never press any phone buttons during a call. This could be a scam to redirect you to a premium-rate number which you will be charged for (report suspected scams to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040).
- And finally... If you buy something as the result of a cold call, under distance selling regulations you usually have seven working days from the day after you receive the item to change your mind and return it.
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More Editorial From Which?
Published: Monday, June 1, 2015