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 85.

    All I can say it get a phone that allows you to BAR the numbers in question. Should you receive anything without a number ignore it or block unknown no's

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Just ask your phone provider for Caller Display, and with most modern phonesets you can see whose calling. So when you identify the cold callers, identify them in your Phonebook as REJECT 1,2 ..... etc. So next time they call, you can see, they are on your Reject list and just let it ring, they very rarely leave you a message

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Whenever I get these calls, I just say if you ring this number again I will be suing for harrassment.

    Known behold, they don't ring back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Nice to see someone else taking on Goliath. I have been doing so for most of working life which started on 04.11.1963. My website is as easy as ABC, as I put this after my name - Martin Levin. Join the plebs fight against the toffs, but only when you have realsed that you have been conned, and recognise the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    well done MR H .

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    61.AL - ......Is there an organisation to stop junk mail too? ....."

    There is a mail prefernce service too, but beware - it is only delivering junk mail alongside the odd genuine letter that keeps Royal Mail going financially.

    If we all signed up to mail preference we would loose universal post coverage almost instantly & many of us would stop getting any post at all......

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    This man is a hero, should get a knighthood for Services to the Realm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Our nuisance calls have lessened. We are on the TPS, but the odd one still creeps in. The thing I found has worked, is to ask who I am speaking to, and what company they represent. And then tell them you are with TPS. They then hang up and do not ring again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.


    it's a scam to either say they can fix it online after they charge you for this unneccessary service or they want to sell you anti virus software at a higher than normal cost.
    usa firm just been fined by usa authorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The best way to deal with junk mail is if they have a pre-paid response envelope then just post it back empty. Or for a real laugh pop junk mail from another company in the envelope (removing your details first). Every pre-post envelope that the company receives is charged to them. So it will cost them with no reward! :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    70 Loz
    The address they are chasing a licence for is unoccupied, being a renovation!
    They have been told and told.......when I go there to work on it, I just pick the letters up and bin.............

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Try the Mail preference service.
    TPS doesn't work for overseas numbers but I always quote it anyway as they haven't a clue what it means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Good for Roger Herman. One must fight. "For the triumph of evil...etc." I have won battles with, amongst others, easyJet and the mobile company 3, but only by being persistent and writing snailmail letters. It's always assumed that people are too busy to protest and will just accept injustice and nuisance. Not all of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    If you get put through to BT help, you end up in India. No wonder all the cold calls, via a BT line, come from India.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    It doesn't seem to matter whether you tick or untick the marketing box, they sell your details anyway. I used wonga to get a payday loan and know for a fact I made sure not to tick any marketing...Lo and behold within a few days the txts about ppi started arriving. Apparently I'm owed thousands... I might just ask a solicitor to go and get it from them for me as they txt me to say it was true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    63. Kingfisherphil:

    It's not just TV. You owe if you can access BBC radio - through the internet - which you obviously can. I had an argument with them as I had a tv in an area where I couldn't receive a signal at all. The tv was purely for dvd's. But as I could access the internet, and therefore watch and listen to bbc online, I had to pay.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Al@61 - yes put your junk mail back in the post box

    Kingfisher@63 - let them take you to court and when you convince the judge your genuine ask for costs and damages

    Loz@64 ask the companies where they got her details from and if they refuse ask for their FOI officer to identify the source - if it was the council ensure you have the proof and take them to court for damages

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I silence the ring of my home phone and never answer unknown incoming calls - I simply use the phone to make outgoing calls. This is a little inconvenient but it means the cold calls are not answered, so presumably they give up ringing

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    perhaps now this article has been published we can expect to either end up finally having some peace or a few hundred pounds richer!

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Great stuff. Another useful way of discouraging these calls is to invest in one of those piercing 'mountain rescue' type whistles. As soon as you get a real person on the line, warn them briefly what you're going to do and why - and then blow as hard as you possibly can.


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