Cold Calling: The victim who fought back - and won


Richard Herman felt like he was being hounded by calls and texts from companies telling him they could help him claim compensation

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Complaints about unsolicited calls and texts from sales and marketing companies have reached an all-time high.

But now one man has successfully claimed back the cost of his time from a firm which called him when he had specifically asked them not to.

Richard Herman from Middlesex felt like he was being hounded by calls and texts from companies telling him they could help him claim compensation after an accident or claim back money spent on mis-sold payment protection insurance, or PPI as it's known.

He has not had an accident and he has never taken out PPI.

And he is also registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which should stop unwanted sales calls.

So he decided to take action.

Time and electricity

Start Quote

It cheered me up to think that actually instead of being the victim of these calls I can actually defend myself against them to put the boot onto the other foot"”

End Quote Richard Herman Won compensation from PPI firm

Back in July, Mr Herman answered a call from an overseas call centre inviting him to make a PPI claim, he decided to stay on the line.

He answered the caller's questions until he was eventually passed through to a UK operation, called PPI Claimline, and told them he wanted to be taken off their sales list.

"I said to them, you need to stop calling me and, I said, if you keep calling me, I'll charge you £10 a minute for my time to be talking to you," Mr Herman said, speaking to Radio 4's Money Box programme.

"I presumed that would be the end of it, but to my astonishment they called me again."

During the second call - which came only two days later - Mr Herman waited 19 and a half minutes to be put through to the UK operation, to confirm that it was the same company as before, and to explain that he was now charging for his time.

So, when he got off the phone, he sent an invoice for £195 to PPI Claimline.

Find out more

Listen to the full report on Money Box on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, 27 October at 12.00 BST.

At first, he got no response. So Mr Herman sent the invoice again, this time by recorded delivery. PPI Claimline then wrote to him.

The company said it itself did not cold call, but it purchased introductions from other marketing companies including AAC, a UK company based in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, which uses the overseas call centre that had first called Mr Herman and passed him on to PPI Claimline.

The company said there was no record of Mr Herman's number in its database or that of any of its partner companies.

But Mr Herman had recorded the phone calls. So, stepping up his consumer assertiveness another gear, he filed a case in the small claims court.

And that seemed to do the trick and the case was settled before it went to court.

AAC, the company which had called Mr Herman on behalf of PPI Claimline, paid him £195 for his time and electricity, as well as his £25 court costs.

Breaking the law

It has been a cathartic experience for Mr Herman:

"It cheered me up to think that actually instead of being the victim of these calls I can actually defend myself against them to put the boot onto the other foot."

Call Centre worker Cold calling people subscribed to the Telephone Protection Service is not allowed without consent

Both PPI Claimline and AAC declined to be interviewed by the BBC, but issued statements saying they are sorry that Mr Herman was called after he had asked for the calls to stop.

They say they only contact people who have opted in to receiving marketing calls, and they say Mr Herman had done so via a website he visited, which requires you to tick or untick a box to agree to be contacted by other companies. Mr Herman says he has not.

Start Quote

It's really good to see the public joining in the fightback”

End Quote Simon Entwhistle Information Commissioner's Office director of operations

But even if he had, AAC is still breaking the law in this case, according to John Mitchison from the Telephone Preference Service.

"If Mr Herman had given specific consent for a named company to contact him, then that would have overridden TPS, but it would have to have been as blatant as that.

"General third party opt-in does not override TPS. The company should have been screening against TPS. It's a legal requirement to do that."

If you are registered with the TPS, and receive a cold call, you can complain to the TPS who will do a first round of investigations and pass the company's details on to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

But the ICO has not been doing enough to stop rogue companies, according to Mr Mitchison:

"They haven't made any serious enforcement action for quite some time. At the beginning of this year, the ICO were given increased powers.

"They can now enforce a civil monetary penalty of £500,000, but they haven't done anything in the area of the TPS as yet.

"It's very frustrating. We obviously receive a huge number of complaints each month and we receive telephone calls from people that are being deluged by this type of call - particularly in the area of PPI and accident claims."

Ofcom figures show that complaints about cold calls trebled in the first half of this year, with nearly 10,000 complaints lodged in July alone.

'Wry smile'

But the ICO is taking the problem of nuisance calls seriously according to its director of operations, Simon Entwhistle.

"In the past five or six years, we've taken action against 19 different companies for making calls that breach the electronic communications regulations," he said.

"The power to fine has only been in force for the last year. We have issued our first notice of intent to fine someone and the fines are totalling over £250,000.

"That's actually for people who've been sending spam texts, but these people don't just send one medium…they send several different mediums."

And what does he think of Mr Herman's success in taking matters into his own hands?

"It raised a wry smile. I think the people that make these calls are a nuisance and it's really good to see the public joining in the fight back against them."

And other sales companies would probably do well to take Mr Herman's details off their databases, because he's ready for their call:

"I continue to receive further telemarketing calls, albeit from other companies. And I say to them every time now, that I will charge them £10 a minute if they call again.

"I would like to think that it will help other people because every friend and family member I speak to all feels very under the cosh of these telemarketing companies."

AAC of Bishop's Stortford is not connected to AAC Direct of Cardiff.

Listen to the full report on Money Box on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, 27 October at Listen again via the Radio 4 website or the Money Box download.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    My telephone is never plugged in anymore.

    I leave my telephone unplugged until very late evening due to these cold calling companies.
    Reasons being that I get on average about 5 calls per day. (Virgin Media does not have blocking systems like BT).

    I am on CPS and have been for over 1 year, yet this is a useless service and don't work.

    Therefore now my phone mostly unplugged now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Making yourself a nuisance to cold callers don't work. The guy on the end is paid whether you want to make yourself cocky or not. He don't care he is just in a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The ones that are the most fun are those that begin: "Good morning, Mr/Mrs X! How are you today?" and then leave you with the *perfect* pause to fill:

    "Oh! I am SO glad you called for a chat! I've been really lonely since my wife/husband disappeared last March and I lost my job. Nobody ever comes to see me, and hardly anyone ever calls since the rumours started...." (and on and on and on...) *g*

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    This would stop it tomorrow - make cold calling a CRIMINAL OFFENCE !

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    @15. The call dialogue is not the main problem, it's incessant interruptions by strangers with no business to, who have been explicitly told not to contact you and who mysteriously have personal details about us all. Sometimes the timing can be very bad. Should be illegal and severely dealt with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This is what is needed: Cold Calling should become a criminal offence. Directors of the offending company should face jail terms of up to 15 years and unlimited fines as well as disqualification. The individuals making the calls should face charges of Conspiracy to Commit Cold Calling with similarly severe penalties. Let's get this evil practice stopped and let people get on with their lives!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Yes, he did well. But the fact remains that this used up his time. It should not be necessary.
    The TPS needs to be much more active in chasing down these pests.

    ALL unsolicited calls should be outlawed, including so-called "market research".

    And it should be illegal for telecoms to hire out UK lines to overseas call centres who are therefore beyond the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Fantastic news. I wrote to Val Smith of TV Licensing a few years ago telling her that I would be charging an hourly rate for processing their unwanted letters, admitting their inspectors or calling their telephone lines to tell them that I do not have a television, just as I have for the last 23 years. TV Licensing can expect my invoice in the next week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    If I get a cold call I just say, "hang a minute", put the handset down then I simply get back to whatever I was doing and hang up later. If I'm in the mood, I might pick it up after a couple of minutes and if they are still there, say "hello?, yeah sorry about that just give me another minute" etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I had one call me the other day asking to speak to my wife (using her maiden name- she's used mine for 7 years). When I pointed out we were on the TPS they claimed she filled in a survey saying she was interested in buying whatever c**p they were selling. When I asked why she used a name 7 years out of date they hung up.... The lies these people tell are incredible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I just put the phone down without saying a word. No time wasted.

    If everybody else did the same, there would be no cold calling.

    It's the same with beggars. Other people encourage them by giving money and it's me who ends up having tell them to clear off.

    Some people need to grow a pair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Well done that man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Try "interviewing" the person who makes the call, if you can. It throws them off balance and they find it difficult to get back on track. When you feel they are returning to the real purpose of the call, tell them it was nice talking to them and put the phone down. Not able to do this if they are computerised random calls. Make a nuisance of yourself: tell them you are reg with TPS - silence!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I applaud Mr. Herman and shame on the law for not outlawing this altogether. Under daily privacy intrusions I've never had the accidents or policies that they claim I have 'on record' I've unsuccessfully tried everything to stop this nuisance, now I turn off the phone. Once a very sensitive family situation was interrupted by them, the're reproachable. Criminalise whatever loopholes they use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Well done Mr H. I am plagued by at least 4 calls every single day for PPI, usually during evening times. I dont see why I should pay something like £18 per year for a call blocker. Cold callers to residential properties should be outlawed. I know many elderly people who struggle painfully to get to the phone only to have to listen to a pre-recorded PPI claim message. We must do something more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Good for Mr Herman! The TPS is worthless, because you have to get so many details from the company - halfway through my questions they get suspicious and hang up. And then there are the 'surveys' - when I complained to one of these that I was registered with the TPS and they shouldn't be cold-calling me, I was told they 'weren't selling anything, just doing a survey', so the TPS 'didn't apply'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Good job, well done Mr Herman.

    It's also worth charging costs for time to your bank if they take money from you when they shouldn't and are not helpful in giving it back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Brilliant! I use caller display and don't answer 'outside area' calls.

    A doorstep 'cold caller' harassed my grandfather for 3 hours with a scare story about his roof (lies) until he had a stroke. He died 3 weeks later. The phone variety are just as parasitical so anything that hurts them pleases me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    This is fantastic news for the public at large, who are the victim of these nuisance calls on a daily basis. I will be informing all cold callers i will be charging them and I will Be filling out those invoices.....

    Thanks Richard for giving us all light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully this will end all nuisance calls in the future....

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Well done Mr Herman,


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