Friday, 19 April 2013

Nuisance Calls - Gov't has no plans to further protect bombarded consumers

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether she has given consideration to consolidating the responsibility for dealing with nuisance calls entirely in either Ofcom or the Information Commissioner's Office. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 17 April 2013, c425W)

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)

As the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, I have considered the possibility of allocating responsibility for nuisance calls, texts and e-mails, to either Ofcom or to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). However, this is unlikely to make much difference unless enforcement of the existing regulations is carried out effectively.

The Government is working closely with both regulators to deliver significant improvements in terms of taking robust action where necessary. For example, the ICO issued its first monetary penalty of £90,000 to a company on 18 March 2013 and has also published on its website a list of the most complained about companies that make calls to Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registered consumers:

If the companies fail to remedy their actions, then they could face further enforcement action and the ICO is also currently considering issuing penalties to two other companies for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) 2003.

Improvements have been made to website pages of both organisations, including whom to contact when making a complaint. Also, Ofcom has in the last year issued monetary penalties totalling £810,000 and improved and clarified information that is provided to consumers online at:

and their Consumer Guide signposts the correct place to make a complaint about a range of nuisance calls:

Nuisance Calls Advice Line receives over 50,000 calls every month

by Graham Jones

Nuisance calls have become a common annoyance in modern life. Every constituent I raise this issue with has had experienced of repetitive cold calling to their landline, to their mobile phone, the most recent epidemic of harrassment companies trying to recover PPI money or urge people to make compensation claims for personal injury.

News reports state that the BT’s Nuisance Calls Advice Line receives over 50,000 calls every month. It is unacceptable. People should not have suffer a plague of unwanted calls and texts.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is operated on behalf of the Communications Regulator Ofcom. Companies are banned from making nuisance calls to people who have signed up their number to the TPS, and it has had some success in reducing nuisance calls – however this appears to have been undone in recent years because of the ability of these companies to get around the rules. The problem is that the TPS can only deal with cold calls from the UK.  Many now come from abroad. Moreover recorded messages and live calls are treated differently.

The question remains: how can these calls and any future technological telephany be prevented? These nuisance companies can be fined over £250,000 if they are proven to have broken the law. However this is either not happening often enough, or it is not a sufficient a deterrent to stop direct marketing companies from persisting. In some cases the law is not being broken, in which case it needs to be changed.

Many people have cited the fact that the responsibility for this area of regulation is split between the ICO and Ofcom and the divison is leading to nuisance calling is increasing, not decreasing.

I would like to see something directly done to tackle this, and I will be writing to the Government about this.