Unwanted call centre calls: what can you do?
Filed under: Scams & Fraud
These calls have been illegal in the States since 2009. So what can you do about unwanted commercial calls?
Know your rights
The first thing to say is that you shouldn't leap to the conclusion that they're all dishonest. Some of them are, but others might make an honest mistake - or actually have the right to call you. No business can survive without new customers, after all.
It's important to understand three things here:
- People of whom you are an existing customer have the right to get in touch (you have the right to say 'no thanks' of course)
- If you've ticked the box on a form that says a company can get in touch you've given your permission
- If you've ticked the 'trusted partners may get in touch' box, you've invited the whole world in
Know your rights
Getting off these lists
Let's assume for the moment that none of these apply. You're being pestered by cold callers. There's stuff you can do.
First make sure you're on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This is the scheme that allows you to opt out of being contacted by people in an unsolicited manner unless you fall into the three bullet points above. This should screen out any honest business with clean lists from contacting you.
If you then get a call then there is action you can take but the result can be uncertain. If the caller is from overseas, for example, they're unlikely to be intimidated by a group like TPS in the UK. We're a very small country, or set of countries. (It's against the rules and you can complain to the TPS but it would be a great surprise, realistically, if this had any effect).
If they're in the UK then ask yourself whether it's marketing or independent market research. The genuinely independent stuff isn't covered by any laws so they're allowed to call. This is why so many obvious salespeople say they're marketing rather than selling - they think this gets them around any legislation.
Then ask yourself whether the unwanted call is from a human being or a recorded message. If it's a recorded message and you're certain you haven't given permission for these in the past, then it's worth complaining directly to the Information Commissioner's Office. If it's a human then tell them your number is on the TPS and hang up.
You can, of course, complain to the TPS but this depends on your ability to identify the company calling you. This, as the Panorama programme on BBC1 last week confirmed, can be very difficult indeed because the less honest ones use false names.
If you still want to complain to TPS then by all means do, but bear in mind you need to supply details. It says on the website, "If you have not logged details of the call(s) received and cannot identify the company against whom you wish to complain, it is unlikely that the TPS will be able to investigate."
The other little nugget that's not on the website as such is that there have been literally no prosecutions from the TPS, the legislation doesn't allow it. The best you can hope is that once the company has been successfully identified and the breach of practice established, the Information Commissioner's Office will fine it. That's for a maximum of £5000. This would be substantial to an individual; clearly to a substantial business it's peanuts.
So until new legislation is introduced and implemented internationally it really does look as though the best thing you can do is to hang up once you've confirmed the caller has no right to phone you.
Blogger Guy Clapperton is the author of "This Is Social Media"