Unwanted phone calls 'annoying and intimidating'75% of people want cold calls banned, finds Which?

26 August 2010

A woman receiving a cold call

Which? top tips can help stop unwanted phone calls

Unwanted phone calls are regarded by most as an annoying interruption to their daily lives and three quarters of people want cold calls banned, a Which? investigation has revealed.

At best an irritation and at worst frightening, a quarter of the 2,092 members of the public Which? surveyed said they'd been intimidated by cold calls and a fifth had felt pressured to buy something. 

Have your say on unwanted phone calls and share your advice on how to deal with them at www.whichconversation.co.uk/tag/cold-callers

Cold calls - the worst offenders

To identify the worst cold-calling culprits, Which? asked 737 of its members to keep a two-week diary of the cold calls they received. 

It found that most cold calls (39%) were sales and marketing calls from a wide range of businesses, although the companies that called most often included big UK household names British Gas, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Homeserve, EDF and Eon. This is perhaps unsurprising as they are some of the UK's biggest businesses. 

The other types of cold call received were split into:

  • Silent calls (32%)
  • Debt agencies (7%)
  • Known scams or competitions/prize draw calls (8%)
  • Calls from charities (3%)
  • Other cold calls (11% - includes unknown, accident claims, bank charge claims, insulation grants, investments and suspected scams)

Silent phone calls

Silent calls occur when companies use auto-diallers to call multiple numbers. The line isn't connected to a call-centre agent until you answer. If all agents are busy at the time, you may simply hear silence. 

Phone watchdog Ofcom is currently strengthening regulation to clamp down on silent calls. 

Cold calling frequency

Two thirds of people have received at least one cold call recently, averaging around six calls a month over the last three months, according to Which? research. 

Three quarters of people Which? asked believe cold calls should be banned, and 60% say they immediately hang up on cold callers. 

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), which is responsible for cold calling regulation, told Which? that it is more complicated than simply banning cold calls. It said that policy in this area is about striking a balance between allowing legitimate businesses to operate and the needs of consumers. 

Which? phone expert Ceri Stanaway says: 'Cold calling may be a legitimate business practice, but it's clear from our investigation that unwanted phone calls drive many people to despair. Hardly surprising when cold-callers often target you at the most inconvenient times, such as when you're just sitting down to dinner.

'But despite public dislike of cold calls, only a third of the members of the public we asked had taken action to stop cold calls, such as going ex-directory or signing up to the Telephone Preference Service. 

Take a look at our guide to stopping nuisance calls and texts.

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