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 405.

    Just because it does not state it on your bills, it does not mean you are not giving valuable information away to marketing institutions via mobile use , supermarket loyalty, ect , ect ,ect.

    They sell your data, therefore who is wasting whos money ?

    Yes its you !

    So make it a criminal offence to invade privacy.

  • Comment number 404.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Who the hell has got time enough to mess around like this dodo in a case which could have been challenged (by a big corporate) only to receive petty recompense & a return to similar situation in a few weeks time ?

    And its us who keeps paying for this intrusive behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    I tell them that I am interested but would they hold for a second. I then leave them on hold until they get bored and hang up
    We need far stricter rules and easier blocking systems even though tps works well

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    I always ask them for their personal home number so i can call them back, they tell me they don't to mix home and work. to which i answer so why are you disturbing me at home?

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    best thing the phone companies can do is let us know exactly where these calls are coming from so we can pop round and pay them a polite visit and convince them that ringing me up is a really bad idea. sooner or later the sledgehammer of justice is going to smash them in their collective face. and i will ring them asking if they want compensation. the worthless b******s.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    I am still waiting for the 5 accidents that I had (apparently) so that I can claim back the (at least) £3750 per accident that I (apparently) had. Glad to see that someone has the ... to fight back. Congratulations to the guy. Hopefully, these cold callers will get the message.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    How do i get them to stop calling and texting my mobile?
    I've always opted out of marketing so how did they get my number?

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    390. Jane Delawney
    Hasn't anyone ever heard of caller ID?
    "Scum" don't care what they are called its invasion of privacy that matters.

    Wake me up without proper cause is trespass & needs treating with heavy contempt from our legal system.

    Its not something we should just put up with, its intrusive "Scum"

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Unfortunately it's even worse now with the automated calls. Even on TPS there's nothing you can do to tell these computers to go away... They've woken me up in the middle of the night even...

    It just feels there's no-where to really go to get rid of them. Even ex directory and not signing up to anything online or offline that includes your phone number doesn't mean you're safe from them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    @390. Hasn't anyone ever heard of caller ID?

    Very useful although a permanent block on all caller ID with-held numbers is very effective.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    im with TPS, doesnt stop the scam calls coming though. what does stop them is to quickly give them verbal abuse for breaching the law and hang up - simples

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Publish the way to do this for all of us
    let us know which companies cold call and where to contact them
    Perhaps the Government would stop pandering to cold callers, lobbyists, and other companies who may contribute to party coffers

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    I have subscribed to TPS but still get cold calls.

    I just say "I subscribe to TPS, either you can hang up, or I will"!
    Recorded messages? I just hang up.....

    Works fine for me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    cold calling of any kind should be banned altogether. i work hard all day, 6 days a week and feel that my spare time should be uninterrupted. full stop. i never gave my permission for these people to have my phone number, i always carefully untick all the boxes and yet still they ring me. i can't change my number as i am self employed. but i always tell them where they can stick their claim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Hasn't anyone ever heard of caller ID? getting this is the best thing I ever did re: my landline. If the phone rings, I check the number; if I don't know it, or if it starts 0843 or similar, or if it's 'international' or whatever, it can ring all it likes, I ignore it. Eventually, they do give up. If they are serious they'll leave a voicemail which can be deleted at your leisure if necessary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Just put the phone down? The whole point is we do NOT want to leave whatever we are doing to answer the phone to A COLD CALL. They are truly a nuisance, the TPS really need to get a grip. I am registered with them but it doesn't stop them calling, especially international.
    If I have the time then I will waste the cold-callers time like they do mine,quite deaf you see, and old, and feeble-minded.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    27th October 2012 - 23:50
    At some point a UK based company is connecting these cold callers to my phone.

    Yes and they're called BT. They'll also tell you that they can't tell you which number they came from or where it is, because they don't know..
    Which I believe to be totally untrue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Draw the line, stop acting like Americans & make it a criminal offence.

    Nobody benefits from unsolicited calls that should benefit.

    Opportunistic "Scum"

  • Comment number 386.

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


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