04th.Feb.2011, 04:27 pm
Unwanted phone calls or cold calls are a pain and one of the most despised marketing tactics. Under government regulation, it is illegal for a UK company to call any individual who has indicated that they don't want the calls.
On 1 February, new rules by Ofcom came into force to prevent consumers being harassed by repeated silent calls from the same company. To protect yourself even more, here are six practical measures you can take to prevent both silent and nuisance calls.
1) Get removed from sales call lists
This may seem the obvious way to prevent you from being contacted by cowboy companies, but when an unwanted caller contacts you, don't immediately say 'sorry, I'm not interested' and then slam the phone down. Remember that the first and last thing you should firmly ask them is to be removed from the company's sales call list.
Under the Data Protection Act, a company is by law prohibited from calling you again for marketing purposes if you've made a request not to be called, even if you're one of their customers.
2) Join the Telephone Preference Service
British communications regulator Ofcom advises that a victim of unsolicited and silent calls should register with the Telephone Preference Service. This is the official central opt-out service, which means it is illegal for unsolicited sales and telemarketing companies to call you once you're registered. The service covers landlines as well as mobile telephone numbers.
Companies have a responsibility to check whether the people on their call lists are signed up to the TPS. According to research, consumer watchdog, Which? found that signing up for free to the TPS cuts the cold calls people receive on average by one third.
The Telephone Preference Service recommends that before registering it is worth reflecting on the fact that doing so may well prevent you from receiving relevant and worthwhile information. So make sure you contact the companies who you do not wish to hear from and ask them to remove your details from their call lists. However, the service doesn't cover companies contacting you for market research purposes, or not-for-profit organisations, like charities or political parties.
Click here to register with the Telephone Preference Service, or phone 0845 0700707. It takes about 28 days after registering for all calls to be stopped. The service is completely free so if a company ever tries to scam you by making you pay for this service, refuse and inform the TPS.
3) Make your telephone number ex-directory
Companies may add phone numbers that are publicly listed in the phone book or listed online to their call lists. This is the easiest way for them to find potential customers and target their annoying sales calls. By getting your number excluded from these directories, rogue marketing companies will find it more difficult to obtain your details.
4) Make a formal complaint
When it's absolutely necessary, complain to Ofcom via their online complaints form or by phone on 0300 123 3000. Report the name and number of the company that is making the calls, plus any other details you may have (including how many times you have been called by the same number and over what period of time). If you are unable to identify the caller you should contact your phone company which can trace the caller.
Ofcom continually monitors complaints about silent calls, and has the power to investigate any company which it believes may not be complying with its guidelines. Ofcom can fine companies that are found to be leaving silent and abandoned calls. For example, one of the worst silent call offenders, Barclaycard, was fined a maximum penalty of £50,000.
As of 1 February, Ofcom said it intended to use the full extent of the new financial penalty of £2 million on a company responsible for silent calls. Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, warned: "Silent and abandoned calls can cause significant consumer harm. Ofcom has given sufficient warnings to companies about silent calls and is ready to take appropriate action against those companies which continue to break the rules."
You can also report problem calls, such as silent calls, to your phone provider which is responsible for tackling them. Most phone companies have a nuisance or malicious calls team, who will be able to give you advice on what to do.
Report TPS rule breaches to the TPS, who will contact the company and pass complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which can take action against repeat offenders.
5) Blocking and screening calls
Phone companies can offer their customers a variety of services such as call blocking and anonymous call rejection to help them deal with unwanted calls. Contact your provider to subscribe to a call barring service for unwanted phone calls. However, you may be charged for using this service.
Many cold calls come from abroad, so unless you need to receive international calls, ask your phone provider to block calls from international numbers. You can also block calls from withheld numbers, though this may prevent some calls you want to receive, such as a friend or relative calling you from their workplace on a withheld number.
If you have caller display and an answer phone, consider only answering calls from numbers you recognise. Legitimate callers are likely to leave you a message.
There are also call screening devices you can invest in, for example Truecall (as seen on 'Dragon's Den') is a £99 unit designed to reduce the number of nuisance and telemarketing calls that you receive. It plugs into your regular home phone, and is able to create lists of welcome and unwelcome callers.
6) Be sparing with your personal details
Become a proactive consumer and carefully manage the way you distribute your personal information. Be wary of how much information you give out during consumer transactions, and read the privacy policies of each company or organisation you deal with. Inform companies that you do not want your personal information distributed. There are certain companies which gather personal information for databases and sell them onto a third party for purposes of B2B data, mailing lists and sales leads for marketing purposes.
Opt out of as many lists as you can, including those companies you deal with on a frequent basis.
Written by Gaby Leslie
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