Call for firms to act on ‘plague’ of nuisance phone calls

Report finds high numbers of cold calls and unwanted text messages are being employed, in breach of current legislation

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Company bosses must be held accountable for the “distress” caused by the one billion nuisance calls are estimated to be made in Britain every year, a Government task force said.

The official panel has called for businesses to make the issue a board-level matter after it found high numbers of cold calls and unwanted text messages are being employed, in breach of current legislation.

In a report released today, the panel chaired by Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer body Which?, claimed some people suffer “considerable distress” from a “plague” of nuisance calls.

Mr Lloyd said: “Consumers have suffered nuisance calls and texts for far too long. They are often confused or misled by requests for consent to being contacted, so today we set out recommendations to introduce tougher rules as well as more action from businesses, industry regulators and the Government.”

The report says the industry regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), should have new powers to hold executives to account if a review shows they are lacking significant clout. It also suggests the ICO should develop guidelines for businesses to provide better information to consumers.

The Nuisance Calls Task Force found consumers often do not realise they have granted permission to be contacted and called for people to be given the power to easily revoke consent.

Complaints to the ICO reached 18,594 for live calls and 22,072 for automated messages between April and June this year. Most concerned unsolicited communications about accident claims, payday loans and debt management.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, backed the findings. He said cold calls left “the elderly too scared to answer the phone”, adding the Government is looking at “lowering or removing the legal threshold before firms could be hit with fines of up to £500,000”.