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.
Companies to be held to account
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.'
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'.
A victory for our supporters
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.
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.
Who can give evidence?
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.
Nuisance calls task force
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.’
Which? to head up task force
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.
The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today published its report on nuisance calls, following its inquiry in September 2013. The inquiry was launched in part due to our Calling Time campaign, and we gave evidence on your behalf.
The report calls on the regulators to use their powers more broadly and more often to punish rule breakers. It also proposes a single point of contact for people wishing to report nuisance calls, coupled with more behind the scenes co-operation between Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Our executive director Richard Lloyd commented on the report:
‘We're pleased that MPs are joining our call to cut off nuisance calls which plague the lives of millions of people. We've been pushing for regulators to get more powers and to work together better so they can really crack down on firms who break the rules.’
We now urge the Government to act on these recommendations and we look forward to seeing its action plan for tackling nuisance calls and texts. Help keep the pressure up by asking your friends and family to sign our Calling Time petition.
Read more about the Select Committee report’s recommendations.
The All Party Parliamentary Group's inquiry on nuisance calls today published a report with its recommendations.
We worked closely with MPs, including co-chairs Alun Cairns and Mike Crockart MP, to make sure that your views were considered when compiling the report.
We cannot wait a year
Co-chair of the group Mike Crockart MP said at the launch of the report:
‘I am delighted with the final report, and I am extremely grateful to everyone who took part in the inquiry. We received nearly 100 pieces of written evidence, as well as hearing oral evidence from 16 different companies and organisations. The APPG also worked closely with Which? on the report, as it was imperative that the interests of the consumer were kept at the heart of the inquiry.
'What became clear as the inquiry progressed was that we cannot wait a year or more for the Government to act.
'The report makes 16 recommendations to both the Government and industry. All recommendations are easily achievable and if implemented will; improve compliance; make reporting easier and more effective; protect and empower consumers and improve the regulator’s capacity to take action.'
Control over your personal data
Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:
'We need to see the law strengthened so people have greater control over use of their personal data and to make it easier for regulators to take action against companies breaking the rules.'
More than 92,000 of you have told us that you're sick and tired of being bombarded by nuisance calls and texts. We're pleased to see MPs recognising that the current system is failing the public. We want to see the Government go further and faster to call time on this menace.
Mike Crockart today published his Private Member’s Bill to tighten the regulation of nuisance calls and texts.
Give regulators more powers
The Communication (Unsolicited Telephone Calls and Texts) Bill aims to give regulators more powers to tackle nuisance calls and texts, and looks to reform the way personal data can be traded. Mike Crockart said:
‘I am delighted that I have this opportunity to change the legislation and have a positive impact of the everyday lives of millions of people across the UK.
‘I have worked closely with the consumer group Which? on the detail of the Bill, listening carefully to the arguments made by consumers during the ‘Calling Time’ road shows. The message was very clear - people are sick of being pestered day in and day out and we need to take action immediately.’
Put you in control of your data
We fully support this Bill which rightly aims to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls and texts and help put people back in control of their personal data.
The All Party Group inquiry into nuisance calls comprised of six sessions held over three days, where 20 witnesses gave evidence to seven MPs.
We gave evidence on your behalf, and put forward the solutions we think would help stop you from being plagued by nuisance calls and texts. The Group will now produce a set of recommendations that will be presented to the government.
Our Which? Conversation regular Lee Beaumont’s story of using a premium rate 0871 number to charge nuisance callers has gone global
Lee Beaumont gets our Comment of the Week
Many of you have told us about the creative ways you handle nuisance calls, from blowing whistles down the phone to telling tall tales to confuse callers.
And last week we gave Lee Beaumont our Comment of the Week for sharing how he has turned the table on cold callers:
‘I have a 0871 as my home number. I have this so I make money when PPI/cold callers phone me.’
Make sure to report nuisance calls
Lee’s tactic isn’t something we’d recommend – we don’t think you should have to set up a premium rate number to get back at nuisance callers. It might reduce the amount of money Lee makes with his 0871 number (as a regular, we’re sure he’ll forgive us for this), but we don’t think you should have to put up with nuisance calls at all!
So if you get interrupted by a nuisance call, make sure to fight back by reporting them with our simple tool. If more of us complain, it will send a clear message that more needs to be done to stop this menace.