Peers urge action on nuisance calls

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%women receiving telephone callPeers have called for tougher curbs on nuisance telephone calls.

Tory Lord Selsdon said they were an "invasion of privacy" and caused "considerable distress".
He said people could register to opt-out from receiving "unsolicited" calls but this did not help very much.

Consumers who want to receive them should instead be allowed to opt-in, Lord Selsdon suggested.

He was introducing his Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill, which would reverse the current opt-out system for receiving phone marketing calls - requiring Ofcom to keep a register of those who had opted-in instead.

For the Government, Lord Gardiner of Kimble said unsolicited marketing nuisance calls did cause "great annoyance and inconvenience" to consumers and ministers were determined to take action.

But he said resolving the issue was more complex than might first appear, requiring collaboration between industry, the Government and consumers to achieve success.

Lord Gardiner said a series of meetings over the last 18 months had brought together interested parties to look at the case for change.

"Unsolicited texts and calls are a problem but we have to be careful that in dealing with this issue we do not harm the direct marketing industry, which is a legitimate industry that provides employment and opportunities."

Direct marketing could be "beneficial" for consumers in making them aware of better deals.

"An opt-in register as proposed will severely constrain such activities."

Lord Gardiner said ministers were actively considering proposals for further reform in this area and would publish an action plan.

Fines for companies that break the regulations on nuisance calls had been increased and were now used more frequently.

Companies breaking the law by calling those who had opted-out were just as likely to ignore the law, regardless of whether there was an opt-in or opt-out system.

"Tackling nuisance calls would be better addressed by focusing on improving enforcement rather than changing the nature of the register," he said.

The Bill was given an unopposed second reading but stands little chance of becoming law without Government support.

© 2013 Press Association
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