Government task force looks at issue of nuisance calls

The Government’s task force has examined what more can be done to tackle the problem of nuisance calls, and has now presented its findings.

This autumn, the Government has already announced it is to change the law so that enforcement action can be taken for calls that simply cause annoyance, rather than the authorities having to prove distress or inconvenience has resulted before fines are imposed.

Measures recommended by the task force include:

  • Increasing the maximum fine to £500,000, or to 20% of turnover for claims management companies (CMCs) who handle payment protection insurance claims
  • Asking the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to devise approved wording that firms can use to opt customers in or out of marketing calls
  • Conducting an awareness campaign to ensure firms know their responsibilities
  • Being able to hold individual company directors accountable. In some ways, this would be similar to the approach of the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, which can take action against both authorised firms and key individuals within the firm.

The ICO recently fined Devon-based CMC EMC Advisory Services Ltd, but many campaigners suggested that the penalty of just £70,000 provided little deterrent to other firms.

Many cold calls continue to be from firms offering to help with personal injury claims or mis-sold financial products. But increasing numbers of unsolicited calls are being made by firms offering solar panels, household insulation or free pension reviews. The ICO says it received 15,000 complaints about nuisance calls in November 2014 alone, and has had over 100,000 complaints in the whole of 2014.

A survey by consumer organisation Which? showed that four out of five people have received unsolicited calls at home, and that around one third of these people have been ‘intimidated’ by the communications. Which? executive director Richard Lloyd is chairman of the task force.

Mr Lloyd said:

“Consumers have suffered nuisance calls and texts for far too long. They are often confused or misled by requests for consent to being contacted, so today we set out recommendations to introduce tougher rules and more action from businesses, the regulators and the Government. Only through concerted and coordinated action will we put people back in control of their data and help bring this modern day menace to an end.”

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, said:

“For too long nuisance calls have plagued consumers, often at very inconvenient times of the day and in some cases leaving vulnerable people like the elderly too scared to answer the phone. That’s why we’re determined to tackle this scourge through the first ever nuisance calls action plan.“

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