As a nation we have a real love-hate relationship with cold calls. Well, let me clarify. Most of us absolutely hate them, but telemarketers love them. So much so that an estimated three billion cold calls and texts are made or sent every year.
Telephone Preference Service
Around 17 million of us have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which lets us opt out of receiving cold calls, but still the calls come in. Consumer group Which? found that those who registered with TPS received twice as many as those who didn’t. Since I’ve registered I don’t get any double-glazing/kitchen-type calls, but do get regular calls from helpful companies offering me compensation for car accidents I’ve never had, for PPI policies I’ve never bought, and prizes in draws I’ve never entered.
I take some comfort from forwarding their details to the Information Commissioner’s Office which, in the last six months, has issued more than £300,000 in fines for nuisance calls. While I find these calls annoying (OK, very annoying), some can be distressing and have serious consequences.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke to someone whose mother was sold a personal loan she didn’t need (or want) after being cold called repeatedly. She is now trying to undo the damage to her mother’s finances. Citizens Advice wants a ban on cold calling by financial companies, such as those offering claims management, loans or pension-unlocking services. Incidentally, a poll on my own website found that 99.12 per cent of people wanted cold calling for financial products banned outright.
But it’s not just dodgy claims handlers that are cold calling. Last year the Information Commissioner named and shamed British Gas, Scottish Power, Anglian Windows and Talk Talk for making nuisance marketing calls. They’ve all improved since, but surely these household names should have known better?
What you can do
So how can you stop these annoying calls? Despite Which?’s findings, I think it is worth registering with the TPS. It takes 28 days for registration to kick in, and UK companies and overseas call centres acting on behalf of UK-based firms aren’t meant to call anyone on that list unless they have their consent. If you get unwanted calls after the 28 days, complain to the TPS and it should investigate.
Don’t give consent to call
Keep your wits about you when buying products or services so you don’t end up giving permission for companies to call you and, if they do, say you don’t want to be contacted by phone in the future.
Depending on your phone provider, you may be able to block calls from certain numbers or get caller display. If that’s not an option, you can buy a call-blocking system, such as True Call, which costs from around £100. There are different versions of the system, so you can let only selected callers through or allow anyone ring you who identifies themselves first. Call Blocker works in a similar way and costs around £40 and BT has a handset (called BT6500) which BT and non-BT customers can buy.
If you want to do more than block unwanted calls, you could get cold callers to pay for your time. One man – Richard Herman – has set up a website called saynottocoldcalls.com which includes a (free) step-by-step guide on how to get cold callers to pay up if they call you after they’ve promised not to.
You have to be prepared for a bit of sleuthing – he recommends recording calls and keeping the cold callers on the line long enough to establish the name of the UK company they’re calling from or representing. Tell them clearly that you will charge them if they contact you again and how much (Richard went for a rate of £10 a minute). If they call you again, record the call, and sue in the small claims court.
You could do more to stop unwanted calls than you think, although it may involve buying a special phone or turning detective so you can charge cold callers. But while they think they can get away with bombarding us with calls, there’s little incentive for them to change their ways.