Alun Cairns - Nuisance Calls

Do nuisance telephone calls drive you mad?

I have been campaigning for some time reduce and eliminate nuisance calls and texts messages. People are fed up of receiving calls and texts trying to sell gas or electricity; promoting claims for the miss-selling of payment protection insurance; to see whether you have had an accident; asking you to buy financial services; or simply to complete a survey to see what they can try to sell you at a later stage.

Before introducing new laws in Parliament this area, I needed to gather clear evidence from interested parties.

Therefore, last week I co-chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuisance Calls inquiry. We heard evidence from BT, Talk Talk as well as Ofcom, Which? and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) amongst many others.

Under current legislation the definition of a nuisance call is unclear. The type of call will also determine where a complaint should be made – to OFCOM or to the Information Commissioner.

You can register with the TPS to prevent live sales and marketing calls, but Ofcom deals with silent and abandoned calls.

In order to make a compliant, you will need to know who has called you and be able to pass on their telephone number. This is often impossible as most companies withhold this information.

Receiving a withheld number could be compared to answering the door to someone who is wearing a balaclava. We simply wouldn’t answer, so why do we allow it on the telephone? Consumers should be able to know who is calling them, choose whether to answer the telephone or not and complain when they receive nuisance calls.

The complaint system needs to be easy and straight forward and to one organisation – possibly in an automated way.

If you receive an unwanted text message, it is easily reportable by forwarding it to 7726 (which spells SPAM on the telephone keypad). A similar service is needed for nuisance calls on a fixed line.

All companies making outbound marketing and sales calls should be required to provide their Caller ID, free of charge and register it centrally, perhaps with Ofcom. Companies should also be able to provide proof of the individual’s consent, allowing them to call them, at the time of the call.

Anyone who receives a nuisance call should then be able to call back, on a non-premium rate number, to find out who called them and be given an opportunity to opt out of receiving any further calls from that company.

I am pleased that the industry, regulators and Government are all keen to engage positively with the issue. I do not believe that any of these things are particularly difficult to achieve, or too much to ask to enable people to stop receiving nuisance calls.

My new laws will be before parliament in the coming weeks.