It may be of little surprise to those still being hounded by salesmen every night, but it has emerged that thousands of households are still being hassled by unwanted cold callers, despite signing up to a new Government scheme designed to stop them.
Around 17.5 million phone numbers are registered with the Telephone Preference Service – a scheme designed to prevent companies from making unwanted cold calls.
Industry rules say telemarketing firms should crosscheck their database to ensure those who have asked not to be cold called are left in peace.
But many companies are ignoring the rules and yet the Information Commissioner is failing to prosecute them.
The findings of an investigation will be broadcast tonight on Panorama.
People are being hounded at home and at work by cold calls from salesmen promising to write off our debts, find us a better mobile phone deal, or cheaper insurance.
Why does it feel like we’re getting more cold calls?
The trade in your personal details is big business, with firms willing to pay ever larger amounts to get their hands on them.
Question a debt management firm how they got your details and they will often ask you whether you have applied for credit recently. Get a call from insurance salesmen and it’s more than likely they got your details from your bank or a comparison website.
It’s virtually impossible for you to stamp out this trade in your personal information. But there are certain actions that should reduce the amount of calls you get.
What should I do?
When signing up for anything, there should be a clause in the small print where you will be asked whether you are happy for the firm to pass your details to third parties. Read the clause carefully and tick the box – or not – as appropriate.
They try and make this sound better by calling it special offers.
But the most common trick in recent years if for the company to ask two questions different ways to try and catch you out. For instance:
- Tick here if you would like to receive information from this company
- Do not tick here if you would like to receive special offers from third parties
While it’s obviously not full-proof, a crucial step in your protection is to sign up to the free Telephone Preference Service. (call 0845 0700707 or go to www.tpsonline.org.uk) You can opt to block unsolicited sales and marketing calls.
Firms that still call you are breaking the law and you can report them to the TPS. These breaches should be prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The ICO says it was only given suitable legal powers to act this year. It adds that although it now has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000, enforcing the rules was not easy given the vast amounts of money that companies which flout the rules stand to make.
How do I complain about a breach?
Make sure you record the time and date of the call, get the firm’s name and take down the telephone number as the TPS can’t trace calls.
Unfortunately the TPS does not cover overseas companies, although it does cover calls from UK based companies with overseas call centres.
Silent calls may also not be stopped by the TPS. Those annoying silent calls are often caused by malfunctioning automated calling systems in call centres. To reduce these calls, register your number for free on the Silent Callgard service. Call 0844 372 2325 or visit silentgard.com to sign up (you’ll need to re-register every 12 months).
While cold calling itself is not illegal, firms should comply with the Direct Marketing Association code of conduct. This, for example, dictates that its members must display their phone number and it should be available if the consumer dials 1471.
Don’t ever pass on your bank details
Another golden rule is never pass on your bank or personal details to firms which cold call you. In 2010, the Ministry of Justice warned about an identity theft scam involving firms trying to steal personal details.
Consumers are telephoned by people who claim they are from the Ministry and promise the repayment of bank charges or debts. They are the duped into handing over their personal information such as bank account details and making an upfront payment, often by money transfer.