Government gets tough on nuisance calls

After complaints from households treble in three months, threshold for taking action is lowered

Nuisance phone calls that blight households face a Government crackdown today as ministers aim to erase a problem that cause “real distress and fear” across Britain.

Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will unveil the plan aimed at tackling the problem, claiming the practice “must stop”. The measures follow the revelation in April last year that the number of complaints about unwanted calls had trebled in just three months, with three-quarters of people who attempted to block the calls still receiving them. Ms Miller said the calls were “at best an irritation” and could cause “real distress and fear” for the elderly.

One of the major components of the plan will be a consultation on lowering the threshold for when action can be taken by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Current rules mean that calls must cause “substantial damage or distress” before action can be taken. But the ICO has asked for this to be lowered so that it just has to be proved that the calls cause “nuisance, annoyance, inconvenience” or “anxiety”.

The shift in policy would allow the ICO to target more companies – and this, in turn, will be considered by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Research by Which?, the consumer group, back in September found that around 80 per cent of people received a cold call on their home phone in the previous month, with nearly half (48 per cent) receiving an unsolicited text message in the past month. More than 100,000 complaints were received by the ICO last year. Other changes include the setting up of a task force, chaired by Richard Lloyd, the Which? chief executive, aimed at investigating how customers give and withdraw consent for marketing calls and how the information is kept.

Payment protection insurance calls make up a significant number of nuisance calls and the Ministry of Justice will launch a consultation tomorrow on whether regulated companies that breach Claims Management Regulation Unit rules should face fines up to 20 per cent of their annual turnover for offences including using information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts, providing bad services or wasting time and money by making spurious claims.

Next week, regulation will be introduced in Parliament to simplify how Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, can share data with the ICO and the Insolvency Service about potential rogue companies.

The DCMS action plan will be overseen by Ed Vaizey, the Communications minister. Mr Lloyd said the proposals would represent a “victory” for the some 112,000 people who had signed up to the campaign by Which? on the issue, which was set up last March. “We look forward to regulators using their new powers to help stop this growing problem,” he said. “It’s also important that people continue to report complaints so regulators can crack down on companies who break the rules.”

Mrs Miller said that she believed people needed to “feel safe and secure in their homes”. She added: “The rules are clear – people have the right to choose not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.”

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence