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 354.

    Does it count as a cold call/text if it's from your own mobile network, if you've indicated explicitly that you don't want to receive marketing communications from them? A few days ago EE (T-Mobile) texted me saying they were signing me up automatically for their new recommendations service and would start sending messages accordingly if I didn't text STOP back. Even then it takes 4 days to stop!

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    I work for a charity which calls people, and most dont seem to understand what a cold call is


    I recently donated money, via text, to the Syrian refugee fund. The very next day the same charity called me back, unsolicited, to ask for a monthly donation.

    I suspect those calls do more harm than good. I'm certainly reluctant to donate through that charity again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    The Telephone Preference Service is a complete waste of time - because it doesn't block international calls, which most of these cold calls are. We had to change our hone number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    My phone shows the number of whoever's ringing. I can always tell the cold calls by the words 'international'. Seems that any company with sales centres outside the UK can get round the TPS restriction on calling people.

    Especially those PPI ones. And what is worse, they're not actual people on the phones. It's a prerecorded call that you can't tell them that it's illegal to ring you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    With nearly 1:3 of the population register, you would think the Government and MPS would get the message that it's needs to work with telecoms industry, to bring forward power regulation and fines to stop this now. When I work at home, I sometimes get 3-4 calls a day, and I'm registered! GOVERNMENT & PARLIAMENT doing something about this NOW!

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    One thing to note is that most outbound calling businesses to the public generally use the cheapest supplier for their outbound calls. This tends to be smaller or niche telecom operators.

    Overseas callers often use cheap SIP or Internet-based gateways that break-out in the target country.

    Hence cold callers can get cheap calls and are outside EU and UK regulation.

    TPS can then be bypassed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Calls that appear on my land line phone that arrive as "International", "Withheld" or as an unrecognised number simply do not get answered. Any numbers that appear on my mobile that do not come up with my friends' or relatives' names also do not get answered.
    TPS seems to be a complete waste of time, and as for complaining to OfCom, I might just as well throw a first class stamp in the fire!

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    TPS is the wrong solution for this problem given the capabilities of modern telecoms. All sales and marketing connections should be associated with codes (rather like 141 to withhold your number) and connections should then be refused by the exchange to those who have numbers that should not receive such calls. Expecting the sales organisations to check databases is absurd in a Hitech world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    I'm signed up to the TPS for years and still get cold calls. The callers just don't bother to check the TPS database. When I ask them to remove my details I still get calls from the same company (not that I discuss why they're calling, you can tell by the patter).

    Two things seem to work:

    1. Quick way. Swear at them and hang up
    2. Ask their name, co & phone no and tell them you're reporting them

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    The only time my Mum's car and my phone phone number were associated was when my Mum took refuge in my house whilst getting her car issue sorted one night.

    I KNOW that the AA sold these details together as a lead to an ambulance chasing company. Tried to ask them to delete their records but they now say they will pursue me until I give in. I blame the AA for selling records.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    I have no objection to advertising emails, not much to those in the post (though worry about the waste of paper). In both cases they can be dealt with at my convenience. But cold calls are different. They interrupt, one rushes to answer (at my age quite a risk) and they simply don't listen when I tell them I'm deaf and please take me off their list because I can't hear what they say anyway. Bah!

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    Why is it so many people have to answer a ringing phone? You can be having a conversation with someone but as soon as their phone goes they cut you off to answer it. It's incredible rude and you wouldn't put up with it if a stranger interrupted your conversation.

    Personally, I think it's like a drug and it's time to wean yourself off it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    "Don't worry, I'm not trying to sell you anything, it's just a quick survey...."

    So I can have all my technology related communication monitored, including this text, however, when it comes to the individuals quality of life there is little or no protection.

    Perhaps I should personally divert these calls to an overseas call center.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    I always had doubts about the TPS, because the Mail Preference Service doesn't work effectively, either. So I have my own TPS- I let my answerphone get every call, and if I don't recognize the caller, and/or they don't say what they want, I simply ignore the call. (It's free, too!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    I get them every week. Mostly from PPI Mis-selling. I also get calls from retailers I've previously bought things from, even though I always tick the box saying I do not want any follow up contact. When I asked them why they had called they claim I had not opted out. It's just a con and there should be some sort of punishment that hits them in the pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    many of the nuisance callers make it difficult to catch the name of the company, and when they are told we are on TPS they end the call double quick
    Charities are an absolute misery.If they are given a small gift, they never let go, spending more than the original gift plaguing people forever after. I know elderly people who are thoroughly sick of them, and their "sad" pictures and big salaries

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    We subscribe to TPS and get virtually NO cold calls as a result.

    Any that do come through get a standard response: "I subscribe to TPS and am not interesting your call. Either you hang up or I will!"

    As for giving out ANY personal details, the answer is, for any incoming call, TELL THEM NOTHING.

    These two strategies work for me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    I signed up with TPS not to receive cold calls, that did not work so now I just leave them chatting to themselves & wander off into the kitchen. But these type of sharks should not be allowed to cold call & should face huge fines. I dont care if it double glazing or charity, I will not ever be interested in anything they are selling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    Ten a month? I get perhaps three a year, tops. I realise that some people will be getting ten a month, but it won't be the average, as this article suggests.

    I suspect that once someone's number is on a shared database, the problem snowballs.

  • 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.


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