From early next year we are introducing a new measure which will see company directors held personally responsible for nuisance calls. If they let their employees break the rules then we call that their fault. They’ll now be facing personal fines of up to £500,000 – and that’s on top of any fines against the company. It will also mean those nuisance call cowboys can’t simply fold their company and set up business elsewhere.
We’re sending out a stark message to those bosses and companies which continue to flout the rules: we’ve got your number, and we’re coming for you!
Nuisance calls are just that, a nuisance. But they can also be a blight on modern life. When a recent poll asked people to list which everyday things they found most annoying 77% put cold calls on top, ahead of litterbugs and noise pollution.
And who can blame them? We’ve all been there. The phone rings and you hope it’s a friend calling for a chat, or one of the family with good news to share, then a stranger asks about “your recent accident” when you know you haven’t had one. For many of us hardly a day goes by without a call from one of these pests, and they always seem to come at the most inconvenient time. Enough is enough.
Protecting the vulnerable
And let’s remember, for the elderly and the more vulnerable in society, these calls can be more than just a nuisance. Some of them rely on the phone as their only link to the outside world and when they are harassed by nuisance callers it can leave them feeling intimidated in their own homes, or pressured into being scammed.
That simply isn’t fair.
What have we done to tackle nuisance calls?
We have joined forces with consumer groups and regulators, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), to stop nuisance callers. It used to be the case that the ICO had to prove a nuisance call had caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’. Not any more.
We’ve introduced a new law so companies are now forced to display their numbers when they call you. That should help you dismiss calls from scammers – and report them. We’ve funded a £3.5 million nuisance calls package, and set aside half a million of it to give call blocking devices to society’s most vulnerable so they can feel safer when answering the phone.
We also increased the maximum amount of fines the ICO can issue, up to £500,000, and made it even easier for the ICO to go after the culprits. And we are hitting them where it hurts. This year, £1.8m in fines were dished out to rogue organisations.
More needs to be done
But with more than a hundred thousand nuisance calls and texts reported to ICO this year alone, it’s clear we need to do even more. So we will.
In the meantime, we’ve made reporting nuisance call simpler than it’s ever been. Just visit the ICO’s website, at www.ico.org.uk, or call their helpline on 0303 123 1113, and they will take up the fight on your behalf. If you get a spam text then forward it to 7726. An easy way to remember is that 7726 on your keypad spells out the word ‘SPAM’.