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
    +6

    Comment number 105.

    I had a call the other evening from someone who wanted to ask me some market research questions. I asked what it was about. She said she was not allowed to tell me. So I said "in that case I'm not allowed to answer your questions - thank you so much for calling" - then I ended the call. I'm thinking about having a recording of any Nick Clegg speech to play next time. No one will pay to hear that!

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 104.

    The process of reporting one of these calls demanded too much from me.
    I was not interested in the recorded message, so did not listen but closed the call and 1571 gave me the UK-based caller number. But then TPS website referred me to the ICO website whence I had to download a form with three pages of questions seeking detail I did not collect.
    Is this making complaints easy?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 103.

    94 Having recorded calls certainly helped me when complaining about BT service calls. I just put the phone on speakerphone, put it near my laptop and record using Audacity or Garage Band, I miss the first minute or so but it works very well.

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 102.

    I don't get any cold calls. British residents are so lucky.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 101.

    I do try not to be rude to the people on the phone, though. Thy're just doing a job and calling the numbers they've been told to call, so it's not really their fault. My friend worked for a double glazing sales place for a while and hated it, but he needed the job. I was made to have an interview at a PPI sales place myself - I messed it up on purpose so I wouldn't be offered the job, haha.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 100.

    There is a hilarious recording on You Tube of an american DJ handling a cold call. The DJ pretends he is at a crime scene where the target of the call has been murdered and he proceeds to interrogate the caller on his relationship with the victim. Might not be a legal in the UK but worth listening to. Search for "Tom Mabe" and / or "Telemarketer Prank - Cold Call"

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 99.

    #85

    And what, pray tell, do we do about the overseas calls, which I get all too frequently? Using 1471 reveals "No number"; there is no number to bar. And companies calling from within the UK don't always leave a number, either. And if they do, it's fake. Those automated PPI calls don't leave a number, either. These calls are both anonymous and unsolicited, and doubly annoying.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 98.

    @94

    Google for truecall.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 97.

    Brilliant response to these parasites - well done Richard Herman.

    The only cold calls I get is from BT, who are normally trying to sell me something to stop cold calls. I have stopped others by promising a foul-mouthed tirade if they ever call back, but i prefer Mr H's response and will practice this from now on!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 96.

    Well done that man! Why can it not be made illegal to cold call? No person with half a brain would purchase a product this way.These company's lie,cheat and bully in an attempt to part you with money you hadn't thought about spending on a product you don't want or need.The whole industry is shameful,there is no need for it.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 95.

    I think a lot of people seem to be missing the point. Yes, you can hang up, but when you have several of these calls a day, it gets beyond a joke. Some people find actually getting to the phone difficult, and a lot of people, when faced with silence on the other end, can become frightened. I am on the preference list, but it still doesn't stop the calls coming through.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 94.

    BTW, what is the best way of recording a telephone conversation, I want to gear up and be ready. The more of us who take a stand, the better.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 93.

    35. webboffin putting the phone down gets a bit frustrating if you are getting 5-10 calls a day as I was until I moved house. I tried answering questions, shouting at them, threatening to charge them my hourly rate as they were disrupting my work all to no avail. As soon as it became clear I was not a fish worth hooking they would cut the call. Then an hour or so later the phone would ring

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 92.

    I have been getting similar calls and texts for years almost on a daily basis and made several attempts to get these virtual pirates prosecuted but to no avail. I have been told that texts are being sent from untraceable pay-as-you-go sims, and that the phone calls come from call centres overseas, out of reach for UK justice. Richard is one of the lucky few who have managed to see justice done.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 91.

    We get these sort of calls all the time, usually asking for my mother's ex-husband, whom she divorced several years ago. No matter how many times we tell them he hasn't lived there for years they just keep calling and calling and calling. They told us we should change our number if we don't want the calls - no, we've had this number for 15 years before she even met the bloke they're asking for!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 90.

    It also shows that being polite but very firm works - and a good example of why the existence of the smalls claims court is such a good thing; even just threatening to use it can often work wonders.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 89.

    if the number isn't listed in my caller id the first thing i do is answer but not say anything
    lots of calls are automatic voices on the other end and those that start of by saying "hello, my name is Jonathan" or the like i simply put the phone down on
    you don't NEED to stay on the line or get upset about it, and if you miss a call that was that important, they'll call back of leave a message

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 87.

    As soon as I pick up the phone and there is that silence or someone in a foreign accents asks for a mr or mrs...the phone goes down...if anyone of any importance wants me ...they will have my mobile number.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 86.

    I'm registered with the TPS. Still get calls claiming to be surveys, or from overseas or from companies that just don't care about the law. If the govt spent half the effort enforcing the law and jailing those who profit that it spends on stuff only a tiny number of people really care about, like gay marriage or Lords reform, they'd be far more popular and useful.

 

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