From today, cold callers pushing everything from PPI claims to whiplash claims will have to display their phone number when bombarding people with calls. Every firm that's registered in the UK will be subject to the new rules - even when their call centre is based abroad.
It means that anyone with a phone that can display the number of the caller, can effectively screen unwanted calls, and if they keep getting calls from the same numbers - it makes it far easier for them to report it.
The initiative was originally announced by Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister responsible for data protection, who said: "We're sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them."
ICO Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley added: "Any change that make it easier for us to track down and take action against companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause. We do investigate unscrupulous companies who hide their identities, and we can track them down, but it certainly makes our job more difficult. And when people are able to identify the number behind the call they've received, they're more likely to complain to us and that means we're more able to take action."
What can you do?
In order to take full advantage of the new rules, there are a couple of important steps. You need to start by doing what you can to avoid the calls, so the best first step is to register with the telephone preference service. You can register online or by calling 0845 070 0707. This will mean companies cannot call unless you have given them permission to do so.
Once you have registered, you may also need to track down any companies that you gave permission to contact you at some point. The best approach is to wait for calls, and when they ring, ask for the name of the business and their phone number. That way you can contact them direct and ask to be removed from their database.
If you are still getting calls, this is where the new rules will really help you out. You should make a note of the number calling and the date and time. Then you can report them to the Information Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113. They will investigate, and can issue fines and force them to comply, encouraging them not to bother you again.