The House of Commons discussed the issue of nuisance calls thanks to a debate secured by Patricia Gibson MP.
Ms Gibson met with us in Glasgow station this summer, where she backed our Calling Time campaign, including our calls for the Government to make directors of nuisance calling companies accountable.
In the House of Commons, Patricia Gibson said:
'It is time that the responsibility was no longer placed so heavily on the victims of nuisance calls, and businesses who engage in this practice should be held more accountable for the genuine distress and anxiety they cause to consumers.'
Supporting the recommendations set out by the Nuisance Calls taskforce, she urged the Government to lead a cross-sector business awareness campaign to ensure that companies know their responsibilities when it comes to marketing calls and texts. She also asked the Government to consider how future legislation could tackle nuisance marketing.
A green energy company has been fined a record £200,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The ICO said its investigation found that Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (Helms) made more than six million calls as part of an automated call marketing campaign offering ‘free’ solar panels.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
‘A bumper £200,000 fine by the ICO should make nuisance callers sit up and take notice. We now also need to see senior executives held personally accountable if their organisation makes unlawful calls.'
The fine comes after a number of similar fines by the ICO against nuisance calling companies.
The ICO received 242 complaints about Helms between October and December 2014. One complainant said they'd been waiting for news of a terminally ill family member and couldn't ignore the phone, and felt powerless against the automated calls.
The ICO's head of enforcement, Steve Eckersley, said:
‘This company's ignorance of the law is beyond belief. It didn't even bother to find out what the rules were and its badly thought-out marketing campaign made people's lives a misery.
‘The monetary penalty is for a significant amount because of the clear failings of the company, and the number of people affected by its deliberate and unlawful campaign.’
If you want to see the back of nuisance calls, sign our petition.
Will Morris, group managing director, retail at energy company SSE, said:
'Nobody likes receiving a sales call they haven’t consented to, so we put a stop to it back in 2013. We’re not interested in harassing customers – we’re only interested in speaking to them on their own terms about products and services that are actually relevant to them. In the long run, it makes commercial sense as well as being the right thing to do. So we’re right behind this campaign and want to see more action to clamp down on nuisance calls.'
BT's statement on our nuisance calls campaign:
'BT has been at the forefront of tackling nuisance calls and we welcome the work that Which?, Ofcom, the ICO, industry and Government have done so far in tackling this issue and in raising consumer awareness. BT has developed the BT 8500 phone, which stops up to 100 per cent of unwanted calls. We have also improved the network so that full telephone numbers are displayed for calls made from abroad. These and other products help our customers to manage their calls and only answer calls they want to receive.
'As a responsible business, we make great efforts to ensure we only call customers who want to hear from us. To help to achieve this we have a policy on customer consent that continues to develop in line with customer feedback. We always display a number and leave a message so the customer knows BT called them and customers can contact us to remove themselves from our calling lists.'
We’re calling on the Government, regulators and businesses to renew their efforts to call time on nuisance calls and texts as complaints continue to rack up in the tens of thousands.
Back in December an official task force – chaired by Which? – outlined 15 recommendations for action on nuisance calls and texts. But our analysis of data from the Information Commissioner’s Office shows that since the task force reported, there have been around 61,500 official complaints about nuisance calls and texts. With just 2% of people who receive unwanted calls reporting them to the regulator, the true figure is in the millions.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:
‘Despite a clear action plan from the nuisance calls task force, it’s disappointing that so many unwanted calls and texts are still being received. People are sick of being bombarded with nuisance calls that invade their privacy and waste their time.
‘The Government knows what’s required to tackle nuisance calls, so we need to see more sustained action, with senior executives held to account, to help put an end to this everyday menace.’
We found that a quarter of people don’t know where to complain when they receive an unwanted call, so we’re making it easier by launching a new online complaints tool. Reporting nuisance calls and texts to regulators gives them the evidence they need to take action against companies breaking the rules.
- the Government to make top staff legally accountable for their company's nuisance calls, and require businesses to show their number when they call. Our new research found that eight in 10 people support greater accountability over nuisance calls, including directors being personally fined if their company breaks the rules.
- businesses to support our campaign by making a public commitment to tackle nuisance calls
- regulators to give people more power by putting them in control of how their personal data is used.
From today, it's easier for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to fine nuisance calling companies.
The regulator will no longer need to prove that nuisance calls have caused substantial distress or damage before taking enforcement action.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd comments:
'Unwanted calls disrupt the lives of millions every day, so it is good news it's now easier for regulators to prosecute nuisance callers. Regulators must send a crystal clear message to firms that nuisance calling is unacceptable by using these new powers to maximum effect.'
Help regulators identify firms flouting the rules by reporting your unwanted calls and texts using our tool.
Richard Lloyd added:
'We also want the Government to explore how senior executives can be held to account if their company makes unlawful calls.'
The new rules come just in time for the changes to pensions, which is expected to lead to an increase in unwanted calls.
Read more about what the ICO is doing to protect you from nuisance calls and how you can help.
The government has announced plans for a £3.5 million package to explore ways of protecting vulnerable people from nuisance calls.
The plans, announced in the Budget, will include trialling the development and provision of innovative call blocking technology, research, and a campaign to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.
Changes announced today mean that regulators will no longer have to prove 'substantial damage and distress' before prosecuting, but will be able to impose fines of up to £500,000 on firms which make repeated, unwanted nuisance calls. The new rules will come into force on 6 April.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said, 'We welcome the Government making good on its promise to change the law so it’s easier to prosecute nuisance callers. These calls are an everyday menace blighting the lives of millions so we want the regulator to send a clear message by using their new powers to full effect without delay.
"It’s also good news that the Government has listened to our call and is looking into how senior executives can be held to account if their company makes nuisance calls.”
The Government asked Which? to chair a task force looking at the issues of consumer consent and the lead generation industry as part of its nuisance call Action Plan. The task force made 15 recommendations to tackle unwanted calls and texts.
The Government’s Nuisance Calls Task Force formally sets out recommendations to help tackle the everyday menace of unwanted calls and texts including holding senior executives to account for the behaviour of their company.
The task force, chaired by our executive director, Richard Lloyd, is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Action Plan on nuisance calls. It was asked by the Government to review the way businesses obtain and use consumers' consent to be contacted by phone and text for direct marketing.
The task force will make 15 recommendations, including making senior executives more responsible for the actions of their company. The recommendations will be presented to Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey, at an event in Westminster this evening.
The recommendations include calling on businesses to improve their direct marketing practices, with the rules on consumer consent agreed as a board level matter, with senior executives held to account for the behaviour of their company.
Richard Lloyd, Chair of the Nuisance Calls Task Force, said: ‘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.'
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: 'By working together with the industry, regulators and consumer groups like Which? - who we are grateful to for heading up the task force - we can work to make a real difference for consumers. The report provides clear action for business and regulators to act on, and we will carefully consider the recommendations for Government.'
Justice minister Simon Hughes added:
'We have already increased the level of fines available to punish rogue companies. We now want to make it easier for the Information Commissioner to take action against these companies which break the law. Those responsible should be held to account, and we will review how they are made to answer for any wrongdoing.'
This commitment to action has come about as a result of the 135,000 people supporting our campaign and the 50,000 who have used our tool to report their nuisance calls and texts.
The Government has launched a six week consultation to consider lowering the legal threshold before firms can be hit with fines of up to £500,000 for nuisance calls and texts.
The law currently requires the Information Commissioner's Office to prove a company caused 'substantial damage or substantial distress'. The Government wants to reduce this to causing 'annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety'.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'Changing the rules so it’s easier for regulators to punish the companies making nuisance calls is a big step forward and a victory for the 125,000 people who supported our Calling Time campaign.'
He added: 'Millions of us endure unwanted calls and texts every day so these new powers must be introduced as soon as possible. We look forward to the regulators using them to crack down hard on the unscrupulous firms that flout the rules.'
We'll be submitting evidence on behalf of our supporters to ensure this key proposal is turned into action. We have until 7 December to do so – so keep your signatures and stories coming in.
It's been a busy week for our Calling Time campaign, discussing nuisance calls and texts in the House of Commons, during Prime Minister's Questions and on BBC Radio 5 Live.
On Tuesday we hosted a task force meeting with cross-party support in the House of Commons. We discussed the next steps to ensure action is taken, including strengthening rules on marketing consent.
On Wednesday Mark Hunter MP asked the Prime Minister what the Government was doing to tackle nuisance calls.
The Which? task force calls for evidence from organisations and individuals on how people consent to direct marketing.
The task force, which was set up as part of the Government’s Action Plan on nuisance calls, today calls on organisations and individuals to share their views to help in its inquiry.
The aim of the call for evidence is to understand the issues surrounding consent to direct marketing and how this impacts consumers. We also want to hear about any proposed solutions and how they could be applied.
We welcome evidence from businesses that do marketing, lead generation companies, consumer bodies and also consumers like you. You can find specific questions for each of these groups in this PDF document.
You may also find the task force’s terms of reference useful, as they set out the specific issues which are within the remit of this inquiry. The deadline for responses is 14 July 2014 and should be sent to Thomas.Oppe@Which.co.uk
Consumers can also share evidence on our community website. For example, how should organisations ask for your consent to marketing activity? Your views will be crucial to the task force’s inquiry.
Today the Which? task force on consent and lead generation in the direct marketing industry held its first meeting.
The task force, devised as part of the Government’s Action Plan on nuisance calls, will meet over five sessions to talk about how nuisance callers get hold of your phone number. The group will then report back to the Government by the end of 2014.
The first session was chaired by our executive director, Richard Lloyd. The Direct Marketing Association, Call Credit, the Customer Contact Association, the Ministry of Justice, the Communications Consumer Panel, the Information Commissioner's Office and Ofcom all attended.
The task force discussed the proposed approach to its inquiry. The group also set out the contents of a call for evidence, which will be published next month.
The Government today announced a Nuisance Calls Action Plan thanks to your call for action.
The Action Plan is the first comprehensive and co-ordinated effort to tackle this menace. It includes the following new measures:
• Lowering the threshold for the ICO to take action against cold calling firms– calls will only have to cause annoyance rather than ‘substantial distress’.
• New regulations to let Ofcom and the ICO share information on rogue companies.
• The Ministry of Justice will consult on whether PPI cold callers should face fines of up to 20% of their annual turnover.
• Which? to lead a task force reviewing how people consent to receive marketing calls.
Culture secretary Maria Miller declared that 'nuisance calls must stop':
‘People need to feel safe and secure in their homes. The rules are clear – people have the right to choose not to receive unsolicited marketing calls. We will work to ensure their choice is respected.’
Our campaign found that people are often unaware that they’ve given permission to be contacted by a company for marketing purposes. The task force will bring together regulators, consumer and industry experts. Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
‘Millions of consumers are bombarded by these calls, often because they weren't aware that their personal information might be used in third party marketing, so I'm delighted to be chairing a task force of experts to review how consumers give and withdraw their consent to be contacted.
‘We now look forward to regulators using their new powers to help stop this growing problem. It's also important that people continue to report complaints so regulators can crack down on companies who break the rules.’
This victory came about thanks to your support for our campaign – congratulations and we hope the scourge of nuisance calls is on its way out.
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