Block on cold calls not working, says Which?

Telephone keypad About 19 million people are signed up to the Telephone Preference Service

Millions of people are signed up to a system designed to stop unsolicited sales and marketing calls, but some are still receiving up to 10 calls a month, consumer group Which? says.

It said it had heard about people being called by many different companies.

Companies are legally required not to call domestic numbers registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

The organisation that runs the service said that it acted on every complaint.

Firms should also avoid selling or marketing goods and services to those on TPS list.

'Computer error'

Sheila Clark, who is 84 and has Alzheimer's disease, said she was being called up by firms on a daily basis, despite being registered with the TPS.

In June, nearly £100 was debited from her bank account after one call from a firm advertising a call-blocking device.

Mrs Clark's son, Paul King, who has power of attorney over her financial affairs, spotted the transaction.

"She has been signed up to the Telephone Preference Service for around two years, but still cold calls are being made to her regularly," he said.

"On this occasion, a company called took £92.35 out of her account, but this device didn't arrive and despite repeated calls, we were unable to get the money back."

The Telephone Preference Service

The Telephone Preference Service runs a register that allows people to opt out of any unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

Individuals can register free of charge by visiting the website or calling 0845 070 0707. It takes 28 days for registration to become effective.

Mobile phone numbers can also be registered, although this will not prevent unsolicited text messages.

It is a legal requirement that all organisations - including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties - do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have the individual's consent to do so.

An agent at, based in Coleraine in Northern Ireland, told the BBC that the money was taken out as a security deposit for the call blocking device. He also said that the company had called Mrs Clark by mistake because of a computer error. The firm has now refunded the money.

The consumers' association Which? has received other complaints about people being cold-called at home by many different companies, despite being signed up to the TPS.

Alex Neill, from Which?, said: "When we looked at the Telephone Preference Service, which is supposed to stop them, we found that when you register, you are still getting 10 calls a month, which is 10 too many."


The TPS is run by the Direct Marketing Association and has about 19 million people on its register. The head of the service, John Mitchison, said that it was frustrating that calls were still being made to registered users, but he stressed that the service did not have any enforcement powers.

"We hold the database of telephone numbers and we take complaints if people still receive calls," he said.

"We act on every complaint by contacting the company concerned and reminding them of their legal obligations. We then pass all the information on to the Information Commissioner's Office, which can issue fines of up to £500,000 to those people who ignore the regulations."

The Information Commissioner's Office and Ofcom, the communications regulator, have launched an action plan to tackle the issue of nuisance calls.

They are assessing how well the TPS is working and aim to improve the way in which those behind nuisance calls are traced. They are due to publish a report early next year.

For now, the TPS advises anyone receiving a cold call at home to be vigilant with personal information and to report any companies suspected of breaking the rules.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    Explain to them that they need to agree to your 'terms and conditions' before you can continue with the call.

    A particular point to mention is your hourly rate. You will also need their billing address in order to invoice them for your time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    The real problem with the TPS is that it only stops 'live one-to-one calls'. It still permits marketing companies to place random dialled calls using pre-recorded messages, which is what most of the junk calls are these days.

    The scope of the TPS needs to be expanded immediately to include pre-recorded messages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    The second I realise I'm being cold called, I hang up. No request to be removed from the list, no goodbye, just 'click'.

    It may seem rude but I never asked them to call me, as far as I'm concerned I owe them nothing, not even coutesy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    I work for a very big charity which calls people, and most dont seem to understand what a cold call is. Despite signing up to support us, and ticking a box to say that they are happy to receive additional information they still complain when they're phoned and ask whether we know they're on the TPS.
    I wonder what % of people in this study simply dont understand what a cold call is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The only way this will be stopped is to make such calls illegal and impose heavy fines on any company who use cold calls either directly or indirectly through an overseas call centre. I still get several a month and will oftern keep them talking ofr as long as I can before wishing them a goodday. This must upst them more than just insults or hanging up.


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