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Complaints over nuisance callers increase by 143%

The rise, which was confirmed by the communications minister, Ed Vaizey, led to demands for unscrupulous companies to face heavy fines.

By law, direct marketing companies must not make cold calls to customers who want to opt-out and have registered their numbers with the Telephone Preference Service.

The service received 28,915 complaints in 2010, 40,071 in 2011 and 70,235 in 2012, Mr Vaizey said in an answer to parliamentary question.

The TPS passes all complaints to the Information Commissioner, the state watchdog with powers to fine firms that break the law up to £500,000.

John Mitchison, manager of the TPS, said the information commissioner was not being “tough enough” on companies that persistently make nuisance calls.

He said many were made by small firms attempting to generate business for lawyers making compensation claims for victims of accidents, or over the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).

The growth in the number of firms offering services to help people claim compensation for PPI has seen complaints spiral “out of control” in 2011, and now make up about 40 per cent of all opt-out requests, the TPS said.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office have taken a while to put this at the top of their agenda,” Mr Mitchison said.
“Even in 2009, we were still getting 3,000 complaints a month. That is a lot of people complaining about unsolicited calls.

“They can fine people up to £500,000. I would like to see heavy fines where it was appropriate.”

Some of the smaller marketing firms should face lower fines but be “named and shamed” to demonstrate that action was being taken, he said.

Last autumn, a businessman successfully sued a cold calling firm for wasting his time.

Richard Herman charged the firm, AAC, £10 an hour for every minute of his time that they wasted.

He took the case to the small claims court after invoicing the unscrupulous company for £195, and AAC, which was attempting to sell a referral for a PPI claim, agreed to pay the bill plus a £25 court fee.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is to consider whether stricter rules or changes to the law are needed to protect customers from rogue callers as part of its wider review of the communications industry. However, a Communications Bill is unlikely to be passed before 2015.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “This is an area we recognise is a great concern to the public. We have already issued two penalties totalling £440,000 for spam text messages.

“We will look to use this power in future and have other penalties in the pipeline.”

By law, direct marketing firms making live calls are not allowed to contact people on the TPS register unless an individual has given their permission to be approached.

This applies to companies based in the UK which employ staff in call centres abroad.

The TPS register service is free and funded by the marketing industry. However, registering with TPS does not legally prevent marketing firms from sending spam text messages, recorded voice messages or silent calls. More than 18 million numbers have registered with the TPS.

Article taken from – The Telegraph

Posted by Jay Beecher on 15 Jan 2013

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