BT has announced that it plans to offer a service designed to stop people being bombarded by nuisance calls. In future it will use data analysis to spot nuisance calls, and divert them to a dedicated spam voicemail, before your phone rings. It says it will help put a stop to the 5 billion unwanted calls received each year in the UK.
The numbers that BT has identified as nuisance callers will automatically be diverted to the junk voicemail box - and BT estimates the new service will enable it to divert up to 25 million unwanted calls.
Customers will also be able to add other numbers to the list of those they want diverted. They can also nominate whole categories of calls they want to avoid - such as international calls or withheld numbers.
It said in a statement it will also share information on the rogue numbers with Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office in order to support the enforcement action they are already taking.
The service won't be available until towards the end of the year, but protection is already available from TalkTalk for free - and has been for two years. It already blocks 70 million unwanted calls a month of calls, and allows people to block calls without charge.
TalkTalk said in a statement: "We're pleased to see other providers follow our lead in taking a stand against nuisance calls. But this is an urgent problem, which can only be tackled if government mandates all telecoms providers to offer free call blocking."
There will, unfortunately, still be the odd call that evades the systems, because cold calling companies will change their numbers or use spoof numbers (where they persuade telephone systems they are calling from a different number) to avoid being blocked. It means you will need to keep on top of blocking new numbers as you go along.
If you aren't on BT or TalkTalk, there are still some steps you can take to reduce the number of unwanted calls getting through.
1. Register with the Telephone Preference Service
This is a free service, which you can register with online or by calling 0845 070 0707. This will mean companies cannot call unless you have given them permission to do so.
2. Contact the organisation direct
Once you have registered, any time you get a cold call, ask for the name of the business and their phone number. Then you can call them and asked to be removed from their database.
3. Block the number
Some companies won't let this put them off, so blocking is your best bet. Mobile phone operators will bar numbers for free, and all landline companies will let you ban callers who constitute real nuisance. Some, however, will make you pay for basic call blocking. Alternatively, you can use a blocking gadget that you attach to your phone.
4. Make a complaint
If you're on the TPS list, have contacted a company to refuse calls, and you're still getting them, then this is a job for the Information Commissioner's Office. Make a note of the name of the company and the time of the calls, and then call the IC on 0303 123 1113 to report them.
5. Double-check any forms
To avoid accidentally signing up for cold calls in the future, whenever you complete any documents or online forms, double-check that the small print doesn't give them permission to call or sell your contact details on.