The Nuisance Calls Taskforce says that cold calling in the UK is out of control. They estimate that there are around a billion unwanted calls a week, and say that the industry needs to be fully investigated and more strictly regulated.
This will come as no surprise at all to the millions of people who are plagued with calls day and night from firms wanting to reclaim their PPI insurance, prosecute someone for their accidents or sell them a loan. While we wait for the taskforce to get some concrete results, the deluge of calls continues. But it doesn't have to.
There are five simple steps you can take in order to stop firms from calling you, and it's worth taking all of them.
1. Register with the Telephone Preference Service
This free service is established to enable people to opt out of receiving any cold calls at all. You can call 0845 070 0707 or visit the website and register yourself for the service. This will take 28 days to come into effect, but from that point cold callers will not be allowed to contact you unless you have given them specific permission to contact you. They can call for market research purposes - but not if they are using it to try to sell you something.
A recent study found that those who have signed up to the service receive around a third fewer nuisance calls. However, two thirds of people still get at least some calls from salespeople, so you will need to take further steps.
2. Contact the organisation direct
If someone continues to call, ask them for the name of the organisation and their phone number - which the law says they have to give to you. You can then contact them and tell them you no longer wish to receive any marketing calls. This should iron out the few organisations you may have accidentally given permission to when you filled in a survey or a form - or spoke to someone over the phone.
3. Block the number
There are some circumstances in which you can take both of these steps and still receive unwanted calls. This may be where they are flouting the rules, or where they are based overseas and are not forced to comply.
If you have taken both of these steps and you are still receiving calls, then you can block the number concerned. Most mobile phones let you do this fairly easily. Landline companies are more complicated. They may provide 'caller display' so you can see the number of the person who is calling - although you may have to pay for the service. If someone is making your life a misery, they may agree to block those specific numbers.
However, you may be better off investing in a landline handset which lets you block the calls - or a call blocking gadget that you can attach to your phone. These gadgets aren't cheap, and can cost between £40 and £120. However, in a recent trial by Trading Standards, the trueCall system blocked 98% of unwanted phone calls, so if you are really plagued by them it may be worth it.
4. Make a complaint
If you have registered with the TPS and told the companies concerned that you don't want to receive cold calls, then anyone who is calling you is breaking he law, and you should complain to the Information Commissioner's Office - either through the website or by calling 0303 123 1113. When you make a complaint, you need to be able to tell them the name of the company that is calling, the times of the calls and the frequency of them.
There's a separate process if your problem is silent or abandoned calls - which occur when a call centre makes an automated call but there's no salesperson to man the phone when you answer. In those cases you need to contact Ofcom, through the website or by calling 0300 123 3333.
5. Make sure you stay off the list
When any company contacts you, either by phone or letter or email, you need to check the options (including the pre-ticked boxes) which give them permission to contact you in the future, or sell on your details to enable someone else to contact you. It means scrolling to the bottom of every order form you compete online, in case there's something lurking on the last page.
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