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back to article BBC-featured call centre slapped with hefty fine for unwanted calls

A company that is currently featuring on the BBC3 television programme The Call Centre has been fined £225,000 for making nuisance calls to Brits, the Information Commissioner's Office said today. The penalty - the first ever awarded to a cold-calling firm offering payment protection insurance refunds - was slapped on two …

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Good, I look forward to SafeStyle and their sister company Virgo getting fined for constantly harassing me despite having registered with TPS and having complained about them twice TO the TPS.

Until this point I was ready to believe the TPS had now powers...

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Don't get your hopes up

I think they're coasting, doing just enough so it looks like they're doing something.

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Anonymous Coward

I actually thought it was a spoof program along the same lines of The Office!

I didn't realise there were so many people like this that they could fill a call centre with them, so this is what they now call care in the community.

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Anonymous Coward

"Happy people sell. Miserable bastards don't. So smile as you dial. Right?"

Not so happy now are you Nev?

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harrassment is different from cold-calling.

If you invoke the protection from harrassment act when they call (and record it) you have a pretty good claim against them in civil court - and it gets expensive for them.

There's plenty of precedent for this if you look around.

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Deaf ears

"The public have told us that they are fed up with the constant bombardment of nuisance calls," said ICO director of operation Simon Entwisle.

Yet they only listened to the ICO when they were hit with the fine.

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Re: Deaf ears

And of course the fine came from the ICO - Not Ofcom.

Is anyone else seeing a pattern here?

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Twice daily callers

Wonder if these were the jokes who rang me up with automated messages twice a day for a year. It recently stopped (finally). Always the same pre-recorded message often from numbers from all over the country.

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Re: Twice daily callers

A pity you don't have a list of those numbers

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Will it work?

Save Britain Money, you are an habitual criminal who accepts complaints as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts ICO fines in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to gently waft this small fine of 0.001% of your operating profit for the year in your general direction.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Will it work?

Course it won't work.

Fines for corporate crime rarely work. Costs are simply passed on to punters and/or employees.

A serious risk of time behind bars might focus their attention a bit more.

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RE: Re: Will it work?

A serious risk of time behind bars a bullet through the head might focus their attention a bit more.

FTFY

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Anonymous Coward

> " they hide a bigger problem within the cold calling industry. "

The bigger problem is that there is a cold calling industry.

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Anonymous Coward

'The bigger problem is that there is a cold calling industry'

Amen to that! We complain about online ads, but I want to declare war on the bastards who use dialling computers to make mass phone-calls. Anyone gotten those annoying calls that are absolute silence? Take this case. You're travelling overseas in a different time zone, but you leave your phone on for emergencies. The phone rings in the middle of the night. You answer but all you get is silence, it just shatters your sleep....

I think the problem is this, not that there is a 'cold calling industry', but that these call centres don't phone enough UK or even EU politicians and their families.... We should help them out, and list their private numbers with every nasty cold calling service in the land!

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Re: 'The bigger problem is that there is a cold calling industry'

"You're travelling overseas" - and then, just to add injury to insult, you (or your company) gets billed for the non-UK segment of the call.

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Appropriate

According to the Beeb's story

Both companies said they intended to appeal, saying the fines were not the "appropriate course of action".

No, but we'd abolished the death penalty so fines is all we are left with.

Of course life in prison for all the directors would be a more appropriate course of action. Sadly the human rights court would probably bar the idea of subjecting the inmates to constant cold calls.

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A whiel ago, I went for an interview at a comapny where the IT director quite proudly showed me their auto dialler.

The system was set-up to work on the basis that an agent would come free every 15 seconds; I asked how many calls it dropped because there was no agent availible. He gave me the numbers and when I suggested that this might be a nuisance to a number of people, he indicated that was just tough on them.

This just seemed to be part of their attitude to their customers and staff. It became clear that they were planning on firing a couple of their IT staff but hadn't discussed it with them and were trying to get someone in to make sure that they had someone to keep things running if the IT staff decided to get pissy.

I decided to withdraw my application....

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"A while ago, I went for an interview at a comapny where the IT director quite proudly showed me their auto dialler."

And use of an auto dialer also removes the legal requirment to check the 'random' number against the TPS database

Bonkers un-joined up thinking we get from the the politicians

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"And use of an auto dialer also removes the legal requirement to check the 'random' number against the TPS database"

No, it doesn't.. Any number that gets called by the company must be vetted against the TPS. If a number slips through, the company, as an entity, is responsible for allowing that number through, hence the fine, autodialler or not.

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Mushroom

Re: 'The bigger problem is that there is a cold calling industry'

They would claim (though for some reason, nobody else would agree) that a small segment of the population actually *appreciates* their calls.

Our elected officials, for some reason loathe to offend this miniscule segment of the population, and the industry that reaches out to it, refuse to make unsolicited commercial calls illegal.

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Boffin

you misunderstand an auto dialler...

An Automated Calling System (to use the name preferred by OFCOM) works by taking a list of numbers anmng them in sequence. The assumption you quote above is the pacing algorithm, a known amount of people will not pick up (usually 30%) and along with the average call length this allows the algorithm to 'over dial' for the number of agents. If all goes well there will be, as stated above, no more than a 15 second gap between contacts. If it goes badly you have people on the other end of the phone listening to silence.

In cases where there is a nuisance call created there are things that have to happen, an information message and callback criteria (within 72 hours must guarantee a live operator).

The lists they dial have to be checked against TPS unless you have an existing relationship with the company and you have opted in, the call is service and not marketing or they are pursuing for debt.

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Mushroom

Cor, how annoying. You're having dinner with the family. Ring ring! Who could it be? Hello, this is Samantha of Compare your Policies... You're on holiday abroad. Ring ring! Who could it be? Hello, this is Raj of Compare your Policies. You're watching a film with your partner on the sofa after the kids have gone to bed. Ring ring! Who could it be? Hello, this is Mike of Compare your Policies...and so on, sometimes 3-4 times a day. And every time, I kept asking them not to call me any more, forgetting the advice of a fellow commentard here who once wrote: just tell them you're going to fetch the person they want to talk to and keep them hanging on the line for an hour...

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Best way to get rid of them

is to cost them money. As you say if there is a live human on the line when you answer getting them to wait is very effective. If it's a recording asking you the press button I always do then give the silent treatment to whoever comes on the line, seems to freak them out as much as it does ordinary humans.

They eventually learn and go away. Whatever you do don't sound angry or annoyed, they just mark you down on their lists as stupid enough to eventually fall for one of their cons.

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Re: Best way to get rid of them

I once put the handset next to the radio which was broadcasting The Archers. They thought they were having a genuine conversation for a little while, but sounded mighty confused by the time they hung up...

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Happy

You know when they've finished the call

Cos your phone is going WEEEOOOOWEEEEOOOO on the other end of the sofa :oD

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Trollface

Re: Best way to get rid of them

I can't find a link at the moment, but there's a clip (probably on youtube) of someone who responds to a cold caller by playing sound clips from Family Guy's Peter Griffin...

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Mushroom

Re: Best way to get rid of them

The best way is to record their calls. On the first occasion they call, make sure you get their company name. Then tell the guy on the end of the phone that you want no further calls from them and if any more are forthcoming, you will bill them for your time at a rate of £10 per minute and the cost of this call will be invoiced. Make sure they understand what you said. Note the length of the call and make a record and save the recording.

On the next occasion they call once again make sure they state their company name. The remind them they agreed to be invoiced for your time if they called again. End the call, note down the duration and then prepare an invoice for the time you have spent on the phone to them at a rate of £10 per minute. Send it to their offices via recorded delivery. They will not respond, send a further letter recorded delivery with a copy of the invoice threatening legal action unless they pay within 14 days. Then sue them in the small claims court.

Not sure if this will work? It's been done already.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223794/Cold-callers-left-feeling-blue-Homeowner-wins-damages-time-wasted-answering-phone.html

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Re: Best way to get rid of them

"is to cost them money"

Which is why I changed my landline number and only give an 070 out to businesses. Anything coming in without CallerID, or with Caller-ID in the blacklist goes to an intercept telling them to cal the 070 (or uncloak n the case of no CID)

It seems to work...(The old number was TPS listed but was receiving increasing numbers of cold calls. Usually once they realise you're trying to work out who the company is, they drop the call)

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Anonymous Coward

One of the things that make me hang up immediately is when someone with an obvious Asian (Indian or Pakistani) accent says "hello, I'm Jon/Mary/Fred from ....."

I have no problem with someone from an Indian call centre per se, it's the dishonesty of attempting to pretend they're not. Don't bother with a fake name, just say "this is Raj of Compare your Policies".

Ok, I'll still hang up, but I won't tell them to feck off first...

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Reminds me of Steve from Microsoft. Steve kept calling us and eventually I was the one who got the phone. His opening was actually a pretty good american accent, until he said Steve in a distinctive indian tone. I just kept him on the phone until he gave up on his american accent completely, it proved to be a few minutes of entertainment.

If you have nothing better to do, just keep them talking as long as possible, it can be quite entertaining.

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Devil

Going to fetch the person.

An old colleague of mine just left quietly and allowed them to talk to the air. It usually took them a few minutes to get through the spiel, and a minute more before they realized that there was silence on the other end.

logo- all all centre bosses.

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Just so you know....

Here is a list of the directors of the various companies together with their DOB. If you happen to know any of them, then give them a ring on my behalf (preferably at mealtimes) and thank them for all their unsolicited calls.

Save Britain Money - Directors

Benjamin Michael Winchester (19/05/1983)

Jonathan Blakemore (02/12/1961)

Neville Wilshire (09/04/1959)

Osian Llyr Davies (13/09/1978)

We Claim U Gain - Directors

Jonathan Blakemore (02/12/1961)

Marc Standish (19/10/1982)

Neville Wilshire (09/04/1959)

Nationwide Energy Services Ltd - Directors

Jonathan Blakemore (02/12/1961)

Neville Wilshire (09/04/1959)

Roy Davies (05/06/1950)

Jonathan David Wilshire (26/11/1982) (Company Secretary)

Other subsidiaries of Save Britain Money Ltd

BillsCutter Ltd

FuelSwitch.com Ltd

1stFone Limited

Save Me My Money Limited

LeadSale Limited

NES Property Investments Limited

NES Property Developments Limited

Green Deal Direct Energy Limited

HIS Energy Limited

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Re: Just so you know....

> NES Property Investments Limited

Do you have thier number? I've been thinking of getting a summer home in Hyrule or the Mushroom Kingdom...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just so you know....

Arrogant B@stard "Nev" Wilshire has his own website with a contact me page:

http://www.nevillewilshire.com/contact-nev

So you all know what to do........

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone sniff a rat here?

These clowns are the third biggest in Swansea - there are hundreds of others bigger. Strange that the ICO finaly pull their finger out to fine now they are on the telly? What about all the others?

The worst thing of all this is that we are paying for the buggers as they are funded by the endless green taxes on our power, by the ppi juggernaut paid for by our pension funds ....and on.

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Perhaps the bigger ones follow the rules. Some of them do.

When I added my number to the TPS the cold calls dropped to nearly nothing within a few weeks. This indicates that most will follow the rules.

It now just the international ones and cowboys like these.

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agreed, im on the TPS (mobile too) and my cold calls are fairly low. royal mail tend to ignore the "no unaddressed spam" though.

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Poor show

These guys are amateurs and need to learn from the pros. If you bounce your calls off a VoIP service and over a couple of international borders then only give out the company name of your holding firm outside the EU you can avoid all this bother.

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We get hardly any calls, and the few that do turn up are from companies that have some sort of tenuous link to a company with which I've done business, even if its "calling on behalf of...". Invariably that means I'm not interested in what they have to say. One ( Bournemouth area) was decent enough to provide a real phone number on the CLI last time, so they're in the list of companies who get the recorded message without the phone ringing.

The PPI cowboys need to be dealt with though, we have a spare SIM in a mobile phone and for some reason that attracts lots of SMS and the occasional call, which I have a laugh at every few weeks when I pick it up to clear them.

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Anonymous Coward

BBC3

> A company that is currently featuring on the BBC3 television programme The Call Centre ...

I've not watched the show, but I saw the trailers and assumed it was a comedy i.e. fiction. Christ I'm getting old.

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Re: BBC3

I wasnt sure if it was real or not at first, but it is, along the style of 'coppers' on channel 4 i think a few months ago.

And on an interesting note.. just glanced over and my phone which has just this second lit up with a text message about the compensation im owed from my accident i didnt have. what a coincidence :)

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Anonymous Coward

It *is* fiction ...

... well, "structured reality", which is basically scripted fiction using non-professional actors, IOW a cheapskate way to get round having to pay Equity rates by not giving a toss about the quality of the drivel you produce.

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Alert

Re: BBC3 and unsolicited messages

Some networks allow you to forward unsolicited text messages to SPAM (7726) at no charge in an attempt to stop spammers.

Since I started doing that the number of spam messages I get has dropped.

Please pass this information on to those who don't know.

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Anonymous Coward

The responsiblity needs to be on those who can do something about it.

The problem with the whole telemarketing industry is that the responsibility of preventing nuisance calls needs to be places onto somebody who actually can do something about it. Obviously, the telemarketers won't change - this is their whole raison d'etre, so they aren't going to stop. We, the hapless folks receiving the calls have no ability to stop the calls.

The entity that can stop the calls would be the telephone companies themselves. The government(s) need to force the telephone companies to

1) allow subscribers to identify what types of calls they do, and what types of calls they do NOT want to receive (e.g. via a web site you access by phone # and password).

2) Tag the calls by type at the lower level signaling layer (SS7).

3) Block calls as needed, sending a signaling intercept tone (SIT) back to the caller (as well as reporting over SS7) - that's the three rising tones you hear before the "We're sorry, but you call cannot be completed as dialed" type messages).

4) Provide a way to report violations (e.g. a telemarketer identifying as a home phone, usually by those "does U has a fone & computer? Den U kin make $€£", ideally by just dialing something like *38 (*FU), and automatically capturing the SS7 level signaling (the caller ID can be bogus, but the lower level protocol has to be correct for the call to happen).

5) If the calls are from out-of-area, make the point of demarcation be responsible ("Sorry AT&T, but all those calls from call centers in North Elbonia are coming through your system, you are on the hook (sic) for them.").

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Thumb Up

Re: The responsiblity needs to be on those who can do something about it.

If I could, I'd upvote you twice. Once for all the sense you're making, and once for reminding me about Elbonia...

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Anonymous Coward

Considering moving to an Android phone so I can bounce these calls to voicemail.

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I'm so bored of these guys

I wonder if it's the same company that's decided to harass me.

The last ones that called and I accidentally answered wouldn't tell me what company they were calling from. I asked them to take me off their database and never call me again and the guy's response was to laugh and say, "That's it then. You're getting called every day. Every single day."

They always come from 0845 286 xxxx where xxxx varies. If I had an Android phone instead of an iPhone, would I be able to filter these calls out and/or direct them to a recording of my choice?

At the moment I just don't answer, but then I'm concerned that when I go on holiday overseas, they'll be directed to my voicemail and it'll start costing me money.

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Re: I'm so bored of these guys

Every single time they call you you should raise a separate complaint here: http://www.ico.org.uk/for_the_public/topic_specific_guides/marketing

The more people that make official complaints the more likely it is that action will be taken.

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Devil

Why is Swansea the UK capital of unsolicited telephone marketing? Especially outfits that sail close to the wind.. Is there an infrastructure or labour reason?

EG, if you ever got a call from someone offering you mobile phone insurance or "We're (mumble) Orange, you are entitled to a free smartphone upgrade" (both based on purloined data from MNOs), chances are it was somewhere near Swansea.

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