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 114.

    re #49
    I find these pre-recorded messages are the worst of all - and they are the ones that are "surveys" so not covered by TPS. If you happen to be out and it gets into your voicemail, then it also ties up your voicemail for 20 days (or however long you have) as you cannot delete it. The message says if you press a number it will hang up, but it never does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Registered with the TPS since it started. I get quite a few "international out of area" cold calls each week plus others who put up fake phone numbers.

    My technique is tell them where to go and how to get there.

    e.g. "I'm calling you (my name) from "

    I say "No you are not - you are crooks why can't you get a real job doing something honest, legal and useful."

    I'm happy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    I don't see why people are surprised. We live in a world where people are viewed as little more than economic units. We are constantly barraged from all sides to produce and consume more.

    This is just another insipid aspect of that ideology

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    whenever they call and ask for me i tell them sorry he is dead i just killed him ...... and they still try to sell me things i just lay the phone to one side and keep on doing what ever i was while they prattle on

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    At work a few years back we got contant junk faxes (which exhausted the paper and toner and stopped real ones getting through). My boss's PA got so sick of it she taped three of the faxes from one company together in a continual loop and faxed it back to them (it just ran constantly through our machine for 2 hrs). God knows what it cost us but it was funny as hell at the time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I am signed up for TPS an have an ex directory number yet still they get through. Why should I have to pay for a device to stop them, a better idea would be for all such calls to be reversed charged to BT and that would stop them overnight. Another way is to answer the phone and just leave it until they realise that no one is there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I must admit that TPS and being not listed has for the main eliminated cold calls, we still get the odd one or two but recently had a couple from outside the country (bogus computer companies).
    I don't give out my phone number to companies and when the option to tell the operator you dont want further literature /offers etc (Ins co's mainly) I make sure they know I dont.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    The solution is simple. Have all your family, friends & other contacts entered into the phone number recognition system. Simply ignore anything else that comes up. I do so all the time and only speak to those I want to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    86. DaveM
    Tomorrow HYS will be on a non story about something even more pointless
    Would have to agree, Which? has proved what people already know and we will have to wait for next year for The Information Commissioner's Office and Ofcom to make decision to do something that will not work again. The end
    Never mind it means we can't discuss the beeb and Dacre, that will keep the beeb happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I used to get a lot but I stopped answering the phone when I did not know the number and if I was not in my answering machine has a two word responce starting and ending in the letter f after a while they get fed up.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    ralphhome - Most cold call companies have a fixed tariff regardless of the number of calls they make, so answering them does NOT cost them for you answering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

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

    No they don't. That's a fib. I couldn't even get them to check that my number was actually listed correctly.

    "John Mitchison... stressed that the service did not have any enforcement powers."

    What's the point of this service, then? All it does is send a clear message to businesses that the law doesn't matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I once had a call from someone doing a survey on how to improve their customer service - I stopped them mid sentence and pointed out not phoning at 8pm on a weekday night when people are putting their kids to bed is probably step number one. Bang - phone down....

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Politicians - want to repair the relationship between you and the electorate after the expenses scandal - easy - Fix This !

    Cold calls now outnumbering real ones . Computers calling so that actually nobody replies .

    Earn your wages which we pay - Do Something !

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    I'm signed up to this list but I still get these calls. Some are international so you don't get a number to report.

    I just invested in a Panasonic phone that has a block list. I hardly get any of these calls now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I used to get around 10 International or Withheld calls a day. I started picking the phone up, listening for the tell-tale sounds of a call centre and putting the phone down without waiting. I now get only 1 or 2 a day. Presumably they were charged for the call if answered, hence the reduction. I now don't bother and just let it ring, on the assumption that if important they'll leave a message. I

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Companies performing surveys aren't covered by the TPS. However, the way around this is to buy yourself a phone that has built-in caller barring. Blocked callers are handled silently, they ring and the phone immediately disconnects the call without ringing and disturbing you and, after paying for the phone, there are no extra fees.

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    Like so many others, I am registered with the TPS and have complained to them and the Information Commissioner about marketing calls from UK numbers and from abroad. It has made no discernible difference. I get at least 2-3 calls every day. Since I can't stop them, I have resorted to all manner of ploys to inconvenience them. The TPS and ICO should stop talking and act effectively instead.


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