Ofcom needs power to trace nuisance calls, says BT

Telecoms regulator Ofcom should have the power to trace all nuisance phone calls to identify rogue telemarketers, BT’s customer service head has told MPs.

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Warren Buckley, speaking at a hearing of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today (3 September), revealed that a trial undertaken by telephone networks and Ofcom in recent months showed only 22 per cent of calls consumers complained about could be traced to their source.

“The recommendation that we have made as an industry is that we believe there should be a single body that has the authority to trace calls through,” Buckley said. “Our recommendation at the moment is that would be something that would sit within Ofcom.”

According to Buckley, the trial collected a sample of 255 calls that consumers identified as a nuisance. Of these, only two could be traced by phone networks under their current powers, while a further 54 could be traced by Ofcom.

Although BT is technically capable of tracing any call made from within the UK on the BT network, Buckley said that under current regulations the network is only allowed to do so in the case of 999 emergency calls, or when it is required by a court order or as part of a police investigation. International numbers can only be traced with the co-operation of authorities abroad.

Buckley also recommended “enforcing that companies always have to identify themselves” as one measure to assist the investigation and screening of nuisance calls, something that he says is already required for any marketing call. He criticised the effectiveness of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) list of people who have opted out of telephone marketing, which all marketing companies are required by law to check before dialling.

“One of our concerns about the TPS element is that the TPS can’t help with the many rogue companies that actually – in the UK, but particularly overseas – are embarking on these activities. Neither TPS nor, to some extent, us have any power over that element of it,” Buckley said.

“I entirely agree that it would be ideal if we could just cut off the calls, but we don’t know which those calls are.”

Last month the DMA revealed it was finalising an accreditation scheme to identify legitimate telemarketers, dubbed TPS Assured

News of the scheme came weeks after the Information Commissioner’s Officer and Ofcom revealed they are reviewing the role and effectiveness of the TPS to evaluate how well it is working for consumers. A recent study by consumer watchdog Which? found those registered receive more nuisance calls than those that are not, with the majority polled (60 per cent) unhappy with the service. 

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