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January 12, 2016updated 31 Aug 2016 10:31am

Government plans caller ID law to stop anonymous telemarketers

News: Roughly one in five direct marketing calls does not provide valid caller ID.

By Alexander Sword

Anonymous cold calls could become a thing of the past as the Government outlines plans to force marketing companies to provide identifying information to callers.

The new Government proposals will make it a criminal offence not to provide valid Calling Line Identification, fineable for up to £1 or £2 million.

While direct sales calls are rarely, if ever, welcomed by consumers, the marketing companies often choose to hide their number. This makes it impossible for a consumer to report a complaint about a specific calling service or take actions to block it.

According to figures from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), roughly one in five live and automated direct marketing calls did not provide valid caller ID.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister for Data Protection, said: "There is no simple solution to the problem of nuisance calls, but making direct marketing companies display their telephone number will help consumers and regulators take action.

"Companies are already being financially punished when they blatantly flout the rules, and mandatory caller ID is just another step we are taking as part of a closely coordinated effort with regulators, industry and consumer groups to tackle the problem."

The six-week consultation on the Government proposals will close on 23 February 2016, with the features set to be brought into force in spring 2016.

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Figures from consumer protection group Which? also reveal that 74 percent of people with a landline receive unwanted calls at least once a month and that 72 per cent of people say that they had at least one nuisance call to their mobile in the space of a month, compared to 55 percent in 2013.

On 2 December 2015, Ofcom and the ICO published a public consultation on its persistent misuse policy which will last until 10 February.

Consumers can find themselves regularly targeted by cold calls after submitting their mobile phone number to an online form, often for purposes completely unrelated to the calling company.

There are existing laws and procedures to protect consumers from nuisance calls. Companies and organisations cannot call a person if they have told the company previously that they don’t want to receive telesales calls, or if they have registered their number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or Corporate Telephone Preference Services.

Since January 2012, the ICO has issued fines totalling nearly £2m for serious cases of nuisance calls. In September 2015, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) was fined £200,000 for making over six million nuisance calls as part of a massive automated call marketing campaign.

The ICO also issued penalties to Tetrus Telecoms for mass sending of unsolicited text messages and to DM Design after making unsolicited marketing calls to individuals who had registered with the TPS in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Nationwide Energy Service, We Claim You Gain and Tameside Energy Services have also been hit with fines.

Today, the Government announced that Swansea-based firm Falcon & Pointer, was stripped of its license to offer regulated claims management services after using automatic dialling technology to make millions of calls about mis-sold PPI in 12 weeks. It failed to provide accurate information to consumers while doing so.

 

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