Will new handset mean the end of nuisance calls?

Sheridan Smith

Sitting down to dinner or the very day you decide to enjoy a lazy morning in bed, the nuisance call strikes. Whether it's a PPI mis-selling claims firm, a recorded message or a silent call, it's a familiar problem for those with a landline.

According to research by Ofcom, 71% of us have received a marketing call to our landlines in the last six months, with elderly customers having a four in five chance of being affected.

There are steps you can take but there are potential pitfalls - particularly for those who aren't as web savvy - in the form of dodgy firms pretending to be the Telephone Preference Service (a free service), and who charge consumers for registering to stop marketing calls. Despite registering with the TPS, some firms continue to call consumers which means a potentially lengthy complaints process. For consumers wishing to sidestep these problems altogether, BT has developed a handset specifically designed to tackle nuisance calls.

How it works
Although withheld numbers can be legitimate, they are often used by telemarketers. The BT6500 handset allows consumers to block withheld and international numbers. Instead of ringing, the phone redirects the call to voicemail. If problem calls are emanating from a specific number, up to 10 numbers can be blocked on the handset.

The handset also features a 'Do Not Disturb' mode, meaning the phone won't ring unless the caller is on a pre-programmed list of friends and family.

By blocking international, withheld and up to 10 specified numbers, BT claims the handset can block up to 80% of unwanted calls.

Nuisance calls have been a continuing problem for consumers and the issue shows no sign of abating. BT receives more than 50,000 calls a month to their Nuisance Calls Advice Line. Ofcom alone receives around 3,392 calls a month about silent calls, with 57% of consumers receiving five or more calls a month.

What you can do
The BT6500 handset retails at £44.99 and is an expensive solution to the problem. There are free ways of stopping, or at least minimising problem phone calls. A full outline of the steps you can take can be found in this article How to stop unwanted phone calls. The most important first step is to register with the Telephone Preference Service. It will take 28 days for your number to appear on the banned list. If you're still receiving calls, Ofcom has further details on how to complain.

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Will new handset mean the end of nuisance calls?

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.

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