Unwanted cold calls are Britain's biggest money bugbear. A recent survey by GoCompare found that nuisance calls - especially those about PPI claims - are even more hated than charity muggers, subscriptions that are a nightmare to cancel and misleading supermarket promotions. So it comes as great news for millions of us that there's a new service which can help eradicate nuisance calls for good.
Getting rid of cold callers has always started with registering with the Telephone Preference Service - either online or by calling 0345 070 0707. This takes your name off the cold-calling list for any law-abiding UK company that you haven't given specific permission to contact you.
Now, however, the organisation is going further, and has launched the TPS Protect app, with a number of extra services. By installing the app, you block can unwanted calls to your mobile entirely, and check whether a caller is to be trusted before you pick up the phone.
When a call comes through, the app checks its own database for the number. If it's on there, it will show a trust rating between 1 and 5, so you can decide whether or not to answer. The trust score is devised by feedback from users, who will be able to reflect their experiences with whoever is calling.
If an unwanted caller rings your mobile phone, the app also lets you send off a report about the call immediately - and easily. The app is free to download, and you'll get both these services for free.
However, if you're happy to pay 99p a month after the first sixty days, you can unlock extras - such as being able to divert nuisance calls to voicemail, or set up your own personal list of blocked and approved numbers. You can also block calls from specific types of companies - such as PPI claims firms or accident claims companies.
The app could wipe out all unwanted cold calls to your mobile, and with a couple of additional steps, you can stop calls to your landline too.
You will need to deal first with the companies you have accidentally given permission to contact you - usually by ticking a box on a form - or by leaving it ticked. When they ring, ask to be taken off their marketing list.
This still leaves you facing calls from companies who are not abiding by the rules. The easiest way to block these is by get a call blocking product. Ofcom has a very handy list of all the services on offer from each of the landline companies - including BT and Sky.
Alternatively, you can buy a stand-alone product. There are a number of call blocking phones available, and it's worth checking out a recent Which? review of these phones. There are also stand-alone devices you can plug into your phone. There are several of these on the market, and some are much better than others, so it's worth reading the reviews before you buy. One of most sophisticated and effective ones is from Truecall, which is worth considering if you know someone comfortable enough with gadgetry to set it up.
10 consumer rights you should know
10 consumer rights you should know
The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.
This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.
Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".
Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.
If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.
If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.
After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.
The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).
Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.
Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.
Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.
You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.
The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.
If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.
The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.
Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.
They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.
What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.
You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.
Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.
They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.
In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.
Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.
You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.
You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.
We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.
In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.
Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.