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Monday, March 31, 2014

Cracking down on nuisance phone calls

A very welcome article in the Observer reveals that Ministers are due to announce a crackdown on nuisance phone calls by firms and charities this week, with some rogue companies set to face fines worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The paper says that Maria Miller, the culture secretary, wants to lower the threshold for taking action against companies, which are currently liable only if it can be proved that their calling has caused "substantial damage or distress":

The government, on the advice of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the regulator responsible for unsolicited marketing calls, wants action to be taken where "nuisance, annoyance, inconvenience, anxiety" are caused – even if a person receives just one call, but others report receiving similar calls.

Miller said: "Nuisance calls must stop. At best they are an irritation and an unwanted intrusion; at worst they cause real distress and fear, particularly to the elderly or housebound. People need to feel safe and secure in their homes. The rules are clear – people have the right to choose not to receive unsolicited marketing calls. We will work to ensure their choice is respected."

There were 120,310 complaints made between April and November 2013 to the ICO. In January this year, there were also 2,507 complaints about silent and abandoned calls made to Ofcom, which is the regulator responsible for those calls.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling will also unveil plans to impose fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds on claims management companies that use information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts and other unwelcome practices.

Grayling will launch a consultation on whether firms should face fines of up to 20% 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 or unsubstantiated claims.

When even registering with the Telephone Preference Service does not seem to deter this callers, this action is much needed.
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