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 45.

    I get calls for my ex-partner, despite having changed the phone to my name 8 years ago, made it ex-directory and continued with the TPS. Their databases must be well out of date. I flustered the last caller by asking him what country he was in; the reply was unintelligible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    My policy is to lie and waste their time. Putting the phone down simply allows them to move onto the next call. I arrange for the double glazing /solar panel/kitchen salesman to call, and when he turns up I explain that his company shouldn't have called me in the first place. This actually costs them money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Had the same problem with unsolicited double glazing calls.
    Repeatedly told them that we were fully double glazed and that we had no need of their services.
    Eventually organised an evening call from one of their senior sales execs.
    He was not a happy bunny, however I explained the situation, gave him a cup of tea and told him that I would get them out again if the calls didn't stop.
    No more calls

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Very well done Richard, these people are a scourge, I admire your tenacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    When I've had these calls I just keep saying "Hello" like I can't hear anyone at the other end and just to see what happens. Once the bloke at the other and used an extreme expletive because he thought I couldn't hear him. This just shows their real character.


  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I did this with email spam from a well known 'track your family history' website. After removing myself from their list 3 times and still getting emails from them, I emailed their head office, with email tracking stating I would change them £40 for every future email they sent me.

    Never been contacted since!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    TPS seems to be useless in effectiveness, I get shed loads of overseas call centres calling me, they are a flipping pest, 7 days a week, vermin!
    Great tip this will try!
    Anyone who wants to stop religious groups who come round selling, try this..come out being rude and swear a bit, especially if they are using kids as the usual shield they scarper, it works! Our house is avoided now like plague!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    If I'm in the mood, I'll answer it and ask the caller loads of questions or answer theirs with unusual answers or maybe even leave them hanging on while I 'look for something'. Sometimes I can waste half an hour of their time which I hope really annoys them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I'm also on the TPS, but I get these calls all the time, from India, Italy, you name it. Last time it happened I completely lost my rag and yelled at them at full volume, I turned the air blue, I questioned their parentage, etc. Being polite doesn't work; I tried asking them not to call again. Most of them can barely understand English anyway, which just makes it even more annoying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I find a good line is "If you call me again I shall hunt you down and kill you in your sleep."

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Has anyone ever heard of just putting the phone down or is there an invisible force that prevents people?

    Maybe hanging up is just too easy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Whilst congratulating Mr Herman for having the knowledge and where withall to pursue this action, I fail to understand why the TPS can't take this action on his / our behalf?

    Proof of an over riding instruction needs to be supplied when complaints are made!


  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Despite TPS we have upward of 10 cold calls a day, to the extent where we can no longer use and answer the landline telephone. In order to get some peace I actually disconnect it to stop the ringing. If the telephone companies are not prepared to tackle this, they should be legislated to offer an internet connection tarif only.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Thanks MarkW, I have the same issue with TV Licensing. I have made a note of your contact, Val Smith at TV Licensing and I will write to her as you did.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    22. psgm
    This would stop it tomorrow - make cold calling a CRIMINAL OFFENCE !
    Problem is there's 2 ways round it that the companies already use:
    A) make the call from India & you're outside UK jurisdiction.
    B) have 30,000 words of small print on the T&Cs when you buy online with words 29,500 onwards allowing them to cold call you.

    Money always manages to sidestep the law

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    "But the ICO is taking the problem of nuisance calls seriously, according to its director of operations, Simon Entwhistle"
    19 companies in 6 years??? He calls that taking complaints seriously!
    No wonder cold calls are on the increase; the companies have worked out that nothing much is likely to happen to them if we do complain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Good man! When you say I'm with TPS they say oh I'm sorry but they should not have called. An increasing nuisance is the pre-recorded calls that ask you to call them! getting about 1 a day, 2 a week on my mobile for accident claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    @15 It's not necessary to be harsh with beggars, you can give or not give but they are still very much human beings and one does not know their story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It's not often someone impressed me, but I take my hat off to this chap !

    Well done indeed sir !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Watch who you give your details to is the lesson of this article. It is illegal for companies to hold your details without your permission. Every time you sign up to a mailing list/ catalogue/ account or buy something online you may be giving permission for cold callers to contact you. Read the T&Cs and opt out if you don't want these calls.


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