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 145.

    lets face it. The ICO is a government department so incompetence is the watchword. They do get very nice salaries and pension benefits funded by the taxpayer though. Just another red tape bunch of jobsworths we could do without.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    I am SO proud of you Richard! Fantastic! I will now keep this article handy - and every time I get a cold call I will refer to the success of another and warn them the same. It is a cold call to the regulators for failing to act - we pay you to DO something - so do it - don't rely on the likes of Richard to do your job for you. Wry smile indeed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    When I get called by a marketing company & they ask for me, I just say "I will just go and get him". I then put the phone to one side, until they hang up. Makes me smile and I hardly get any more now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    Oh, yes. A great story.

    If only it was that easy every time.

    Registering with TPS has made no difference since all unsolicited calls come from Asia and Africa. It has been like that for years. And they can't remove you from their database because numbers are dialled automatically by software. So asking politely for them to stop calling or shouting at them makes no difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Helen_of_Troy 110

    Get yourself a proper job, or is it acceptable for you to harass the general public?

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Not a Judgment but certainly a step in the right direction. Very well done for actually getting off your butt and getting something done! We as a people have been abused for far to long by our corrupt system.

    If we all stood up together and peacefully combat the abuse that gets thrown at us daily from all sides we could actually change the world..... small steps.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    A permanent block on all 'caller with-held' numbers makes a huge difference; as does TPS registration.

    Also answering with 'Hello, who is speaking please' also assists - if they don't want to respond it is a straight hang-up.

    Once someone is TPS registered I have every sympathy with those who give a none-to-polite response to cold-callers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    It's about time that the Law cracked down on these companies. Is it still against the data protection act, that our details are not allowed to be sent to company abroad?

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    Excellent! I shall be joining you in charging £10 a minute for my time, instead of ignoring them as I currently do. The more of us that do it, the more likely. These companies will think twice before goring TPS! Webboffin: ignoring these people was as good as we could get but why put up With the intrusiveness of being called/texted several times a day when we have the right not to?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    You're an inspiration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    sometimes i just spin them along and then near the end mention that i have no money and then the silence is deafening.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    Time for an e-petition methinks... It shouldn't be hard to get enough respondents to have this raised in parliament and it really is time for it to be banned outright.

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Every advertising text number to my TIPS-registered cellphone is subject to a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office.


  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    2 Minutes ago
    @Harrison 111
    You may be 73 and disabled, but that doesn't give you licence to behave like a thug.
    "It is not convenient to take your call." Is that too hard to say?

    I'm with you harrison, why should you be disturbed in your own home by a rude unwanted caller!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    I was constantly hounded by British Gas. I kept telling them not to call again. In the end I threatened to report them for harassment. Amazingly they rang again but when I repeated the threat the calls stopped. We now have caller display and don't answer calls which come up as 'International, out of area' or 'number withheld'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    Its not just a nuisance. These calls are very distressing if you are waiting for an urgent call or if a family member is ill or in hospital, I will be adopting this tactic in future.

  • Comment number 129.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I've never understood why the TPS only applies to calls originating in the UK. It should also apply to calls on behalf of any company that operates in the UK. Even if the part that is in the UK is nothing to do with the part that calls, it should still be held responsible

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    I often get cold calls & texts. They always ask for Emma, which is not my name. It seems when the 'lovely' Emma was filling out a form, she didn't give her own number, she very kindly gave mine!!! I tend to answer the phone after maybe their millionth call & demand they remove me from their database. It's very frustrating being plagued by these calls, when I wasn't the one to give my number out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    A few months ago I bought a call screener (as shown on Dragons Den) and I am pleased to say I seldom get any nuisance calls whatsoever these days.

    There is something distinctly satisfying in knowing that these cold callers are speaking to a machine and not the other way around.

    Highly recommended.


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