Ask Sindie: 'I don't need a holiday, just a break from unwanted calls'

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I'm getting so infuriated with this intrusion that the last time it happened, I stayed on the line until I was able to speak to someone - and managed to glean a few details before the caller hung up.

Is there any way I can register a complaint about this company? And, given that I have already signed up to the TPS, is there anything else I can do to prevent such calls?

SS, by email

A: Persistent unsolicited calls are, unfortunately, a fairly regular event for most people - especially calls which, like yours, consist of an automated voice urging you to take steps to collect a prize.

You have taken the right first step by registering with the TPS, indicating your wish not to receive marketing calls.

Last month, BT launched its BT Privacy service, which registers customers with the TPS for free and also gives free caller display, letting you see the numbers of incoming calls. More than 350,000 people have already signed up.

It is a legal requirement that companies do not make calls to numbers on the TPS list. If, as in your case, you are still receiving unsolicited sales calls, first try asking the company to stop.

Some people also find that re-registering with the TPS proves effective.

If a company continues to call you - or if it is not possible to ask it to stop - you can complain directly to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). If the nuisance calls are coming from within the UK, the ICO has the power to issue the the company with an enforcement notice. It can be fined up to £5,000 for non-compliance.

However, problems arise if the company is operating outside the UK - as may be so in your case. Marketers based overseas are not covered by UK legislation, making it much more difficult for the ICO to take action.

"While the TPS is helpful, it only keeps numbers off the marketing lists of reputable companies," says a spokeswoman for Icstis, the body that regulates the premium-rate phone number industry. "Less reputable organisations ignore the TPS registration."

As a consumer, you can do your bit to protect your personal information by only giving it out to firms you trust not to sell it on. Otherwise, frustrating as it may seem, the best course of action is simply to put the phone down.

Contacts: to register with the TPS, call 08450 700707 or go to www.tpsonline.org.uk. For the ICO, call 01625 545745 or go to www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

If you need help from our consumer champion, write to Sindie at The Independent on Sunday, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email sindie@independent.co.uk. We cannot return documents, give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice.

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