Which? demands action to end nuisance marketing calls and spam texts

Influential consumer watchdog Which? is calling for an overhaul of the regulatory system designed to stop people receiving nuisance marketing calls after research it commissioned found households that asked not to receive calls receive on average twice the number than those that have not opted-out.  


In a damning report, Which? calls for stronger enforcement action (see box below) against those companies who call people registered on Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

About 17.9 million are registered with the TPS. The service is run by the Direct Marketing Association under license from Ofcom but is enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Those registered with the service received on average 10 unsolicited calls per month compared to five for those who have not signed up, the report found. Almost 60% say they are unhappy with the service the TPS offers.

More than eight in ten (85%) people received an unwanted call in the last month Which? claims, mainly from companies offering to recoup payment protection insurance or from firms offering to make an accident claim on a consumer’s behalf. Of those, one in ten received 50 unwanted calls.

The report has been published to launch a campaign, “calling time”, intended to force the regulatory bodies responsible for policing nuisance marketing telephone calls and spam texts to take action. Which? is demanding the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading form a joint body to stop nuisance calls and spam texts.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd says: “Consumers are sick and tired of being bombarded with nuisance calls and texts.  The current system is failing the public and given the scale of this problem, it’s time for the Government to step in.  We urgently need to see a new approach, new laws and new technology to tackle this scourge on people’s lives. People must be put back in control of their personal data.”

A spokesman for the ICO, which has taken action and imposed hefty fines on a number of companies found guilty of sending unlawful texts since it was handed additional powers to fine offenders up to £500,000 in 2011, welcomed any move to help it enforce current laws.

“We’ve been working with the Government and other relevant organisations, including Which?, to look at how the law around consent might be improved to provide greater consumer protection. We’ve also been discussing changes to the law that would make it easier to prosecute organisations who break the rules,” he adds.

Mike Lordan, chief of operations for the Direct Marketing Association, called on regulators to use the powers they already have available to them.

“There’s already tough legislation in place to protect consumers and telemarketers. However, government regulators must redouble their efforts and work with the telephone operators and the telemarketing Industry  to enforce the powers they have. The UK telemarketing industry employs more than one million workers and adds billions of pounds to the UK economy. It’s vital that the Government give the regulators the resources they need to support the valuable contribution the industry makes to UK plc.”

The Which? report is based on a survey of 2,070 adults by Populus.

Which? demands

  • Make it clear that companies cannot call someone if they gave consent via a third party.
  • Require businesses to send their Caller ID so people can see a company’s telephone number and report nuisance calls to regulators.
  • Provide spam filtering technology on mobiles to stop unwanted texts.
  • Extending the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which covers email and text marketing, to include firms selling on personal data, not just direct marketers.
  • Develop a short-code that consumers can dial after receiving an unwanted call that transmits information to the regulators and network operators.
  • Regulators should publish information about all enforcement action they are taking to serve as a deterrent to the industry.  

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