back to article Ofcom imposes new rules on silent callers

Ofcom's consultation on silent calling is over and the regulator has concluded that it was right about almost everything, so companies now have four months to comply with the new rules. These rules (pdf) are almost identical to those presented for consultation in June, but for some clarifications and a fixed typo or two. The …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anomalous Cowturd

    TPS is ignored...

    I have been called twice in the last week by Phones4U. The first time I was in bed asleep, and not fully with it. The second time, I was fully conscious, and told the caller that if they called me again I would report them to OFCOM as I have been registered with TPS for over a year.

    They had my full name, and told me I had been recommended by a friend. When I asked the name of the "friend", she gave me a name I had never heard of.....

  2. John H Woods Silver badge

    How about ...

    ... an answering message that plays the rising three tone signal for 'number unobtainable' and then says 'please stay on the line' before transferring the call to the ringer unit? Humans will be momentarily confused, but stay on the line, but the autodiallers will probably disconnect immediately, hopefully marking the number out-of-service and not ever calling back.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      TPS can't work if you don't tell them

      TPS can only act if they are told about the problem. If you get a call, don't 'threaten' to report them to TPS - report the buggers.

      1. Anomalous Cowturd

        I've told them!

        I don't suppose it will stop them cold calling others though...

        And I shan't be holding my breath waiting for the massive fines either...

      2. rob hindle

        TPS is a confidence trick

        TPS does nothing. They have the power to impose fines that are intended to ensure compliance (up to £5k per call to a TPS registered number and I think imprisonment is an option not only for the MD of company making the call but also for the individual employee).

        An FOI enquiry found they have NEVER imposed a fine of any size or any other penalty.

        If they get enough complaints about a particular company they write a polite letter asking them to take more care about who they call.

        I think TPS complaint monitoring is subcontracted by the ICO to an organisation funded by the marketing industry.

        It's not even that easy to file a proper complaint as the calls are usually "number withheld" (or more recently to get past those who have such calls blocked by their telecoms supplier for example, some seem able to use a faked caller ID). Ask the caller for their name, company name, address, phone number - at best you get: "Can't give you my name because of the data protection act" but commonly they know the reason people need that is to log a TPS complaint so they end the call.

        TPS is basically a confidence trick, the authorities being seen to do something but prefer to look after the interests of the marketing industry than the electorate - after all we only get one vote every 5 years, the marketers get to entertain MPs and make donations to political parties every day of the week.

        On a similar note, junk emails, a marketer involved told me he'd once accidentally sent a mailshot to his list of people who had explicitly requested no further mailings from him - it generated no complaints and more business than any of his mailings to opted-in addresses. That's why marketers regard TPS registratrants as "good prospects", we get fewer calls so are more likely to respond and the only downside risk is an ineffective TPS complaint.

        I don't bother completing TPS reports any more, it just means each junk call takes me time and effort.

        Read the TPS web site - worded to emphasise the downside (!) of blocking unsolicited calls (that you might really want some of those calls!).

        The con-artists have also got in on the act, there are companies who charge £££ to block your sales calls. All they appear to do (apart from taking your money of course) is register you with TPS.

        Also there are all sorts of clever devices to help you block these calls - but why the heck should I pay £££ to prevent someone invading my privacy? I got a phone for my convenience not theirs.

        1. chr0m4t1c

          @Confidence trick

          Are you absolutely sure about that?

          When I moved into my current house we had 10+ cold calls a week which dropped to almost nothing within a week of my registration with TPS and has now settled at around 4-5 a year.

          I wouldn't call that a con trick.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You mean like...

      .... this?

      Works pretty well and has a few "get your own back" options.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @John Naismith

        Looks pretty good, way too expensive though. Lets hope they sell a lot and can bring the price down.

  3. Number6

    Caller ID

    Does it include a requirement for companies to present a correct UK caller ID on calls? If not, why not?

  4. Blue eyed boy

    The only question that really needs to be asked is

    why were they ever permitted in the first place?

    Ofcom shows its teeth for once. Go for it!

    1. Alpha Centauri

      Good question

      I usually ignore "Number Withheld" calls, but I still get interrupted from what I was doing.

    2. Blue eyed boy

      Caller ID

      I've had marketing calls which I've missed without knowing what they were. On one occasion the calling number was given as 01234 567890 (01234 is Bedford, but this particular number is currently reserved out of use) and, most mindboggling of all, 00000 000000.

      If I did want what they had to offer, how could I call them back?

  5. Daf L

    Outside the UK...

    And that's the problem. With labour cheaper outside the UK, and with VOIP, it is cheaper to set up a cold calling centre away from even European shores.

    I get many calls from South Africa, trying to sell me all manner of goods or services. These aren't subject to the TPS, silent calls regs etc.

    The only way to stop this would be to make the laws apply to anyone who has offices in the UK but tracking them down might be very hard as VOIP would make it difficult to track the originator.

  6. Kevin Fields

    Great step

    Now if only we can get this implemented in the United States. I let all my calls go to voicemail first now because of a high incident of these calls, with direct dialbacks often resulting in receiving a message that my call cannot be placed to the machine that placed it to me.

  7. The Other Steve

    While they're at it

    Way past time to mandate a presentation number.

  8. SimonF


    I wish they were made to release CLI as well then we could use Asterisk to ignore them.

  9. David Gosnell

    No teeth

    I can't remember the last time we had one of these calls originating from the UK. If that's generally the case, Ofcom will have no teeth - unless they set up snatch squads of course.

    1. CADmonkey


      YMMV, but I set this up for my septugenerian in-laws when I visited them in upstate New York. They were getting calls at all hours. It took one very pleasant phone-call to the Telco (that I found in their phone-book) and just asked them if such a service existed. About 4 weeks later the calls all but stopped. My in-laws remain delighted to this day and I am #1 son-in-law. (like Alfred E.Newman, #1 in a field of 1)

  10. Nigel Callaghan Silver badge

    Overseas calls

    Yeah - biggest problem now is dodgy sales calls, silent or otherwise, from overseas. How about Ofcom start talking to the phone operators to see about blocking these, or at least giving a guaranteed accurate number that is calling rather than 'International' - and if their excuse is that the other country can't provide the information, then just cut those countries off from direct dial calling to the UK until they can provide the information!

    Personally my solution when I get one of the calls asking for 'Mr whoever' is to say that "he's just seeing a client out, please hang on a moment" and then put the handset down next to the radio. They usually last about 5 mins before disconnecting, but the best was over seven. I consider this to be a public service as that five minutes wasted by them is five minutes they can never get back, and means a dozen other poor sods won't have their day interrupted. And of course, it gives the call-centre drones a breather.

    A similar tactic works with the 'you have won a holiday' automated messages from the US - select the 'hear more' option and when you get to speak to some human let them get started and then tell them 'Hang on, there's someone at the door, I'll be back in a moment' and then leave them hanging until they give up.

    It's the only language they understand....

  11. N2 Silver badge

    Good but

    A lot of these type of calls originate from outside the UK

  12. The dog ate it

    TPS is a joke

    People either ignore it, claim that it is a "marketing" call (which are exempt for some brain dead reason), or are foreign.

    I've given up being polite to them. I have decided the start using the line the devil says to the priest in The Exorcist. Your mother ...

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Marketing calls

      II think you mean market research?

      When I get those I explain to them that they have decided on my behalf that I won't object to such calls even though I am registered as objecting to sales calls. And I ask them why I should co-operate with someone who is so extremely stupid.

      However my actual phrasing is very slightly less polite than that.

  13. John Savard Silver badge

    Preference Service?

    Unsolicited sales calls to private residences should simply be outlawed outright. And if such calls come in from foreign countries, their sources should be blocked from making calls to your country. Debt collection would, of course, be exempted from that.

  14. Ojustaboo

    Everyone should have an answer phone permanetly on

    My answer phone is always on.

    My message starts with

    "Hi, all calls to this number are screened before answering"

    Putting that line in has reduced the number of calls I get by about 90% over the months.

    Mind you 70% of messages I do receive are blank. I think businesses should be forced to have to leave a message if they get an answer phone, then I could contact them and get taken off their lists.

  15. hugo tyson

    Waste their time

    Yeah, the only moral thing to do is waste their time - whether a silent line or ideally a human. Hang on, I'll just get them... and just leave it there, is what I do every time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @hugo tyson

      I have a retired relative that deliberately baits these scumbags, I remember watching him string someone from a power/gas company along for about 25 minutes.

      He pretended to be old and confused, the sales drone was telling him to find bills, get his cheque book, don't tell his carer about switching his account. It was hilarious to listen to.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Wasting time

      We don't get many sales calls, we don't tend to give the number out, and when cack like PayPal wants my phone number to verify it is me they get the mobile, which is turned off for all of about 20 minutes in a day. Our phone isn't wonderful, but it has a little display for caller ID.

      I used to pick up and if it was a sales call, I'd just lay the phone down. It is amazing how long some will go on for before realising you aren't there (I taped a few so I could go away and resist giggling).

      These days, if I am programming, watching TV, whatever... and a call comes in that is unknown or withheld, I absentmindedly hit the green button and then the red button. [one day I'll hack together a circuit to do that automatically from the CLID]. Genuine callers who are trying to get hold of me learn fast...

  16. Magnus_Pym


    I'm at the point of getting rid of the land line because virtually the only calls I get are cold calls. I work at home so I'm in all day, it's just become a nuisance. Most people I want to speak to use the mobile. I might just route all calls to the answer machine and switch the ringer off. I'll call back if it is legit. I bet it's not many.

    I suspect I'm not the only one who is bugged by this . I wonder if the land line companies realize how much business they risk by letting this nuisance continue.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Same rules, same result.

    Some readers, with caller ID, might find this helpful:

    I had a number call me with eleven zeros. WTF?

  18. Da Weezil


    Umm "Marketing" calls are exempt? First I heard of it, in fact avoidance of those very nuisances is surely the reason for the TPS?

    I want the power to bar international calls - I'm not expecting any - and the only ones I get are from companies deliberately avoiding the TPS rules - about time OFCOM and the ICO got tough with such companies.. for whom I have a simple message.

    I DON'T have a phone for you to use as a marketing tool. By registering with the TPS, and being ex-directory I am being very clear that I DON'T want to hear from you. By calling me you are making it less likely that I will ever buy anything from you.... and I'm not the only person who thinks that way. I reserve the right to be abusive or react in any other way I see fit, I have the forms for ICO complaints on file here ready...

  19. bytesoup

    Redirect them to your own automated service

    One day I had some spare time...and was in the mood for a sales call...

    sales: Hello can I speak to Mr .....

    me: Hello, thanks for calling, press 1 for the homeowner, 2 for a operator, 3 to hear these options again.

    sales: Hello?

    me: Im sorry that is not a valid option, please press star to return to the main menu

    sales: Hello can I speak to Mr ....

    me: Im sorry that is not a valid option

    then the caller hung up :-) I think they knew I was a fake due to the kids howling with laughter in the background.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Debt Collectors....

    ... seem to think they are above the law anyway so no doubt companies like RBS will just carry on as they always have.

  21. Paul Shirley

    Ofcom a waste of space

    It's surprising Ofcom get any complaints, given how deep in the site the report page is hidden and a page that effectively says 'we'll count them but do nothing'.

    They don't seem interested in fighting for consumers, just writing toothless reports and hoping scumbag companies don't take the piss enough to make Ofcom look really bad.

  22. illiad

    get a phone to do it...

    some of the new panasonic phones will enable you to ignore these calls...

    you can set 'night mode' so it does not ring, except those in your phonebook..

    you can even 'ban'(they get busy tone) up to 30 numbers, including 'withheld' ones!

  23. illiad

    TPS?? huh!

    did you know it takes TPS 30 days to get the service going?? and then the company just changes the number...

  24. Dick Emery


    This is why I went and got a 3COM U.S. Robotics Pro Message Modem second hand off of Ebay. It has very reliable Caller ID (You have to use an application called Phonetray Free to fix Caller ID in Windows 7) and I use Callstation to answer calls with personal messages. Callstation acts as a software answerphone system and can auto hangup on bad callers, give personal greetings and other neat stuff. For numbers without Caller ID, out of area, blocked or known bad Caller ID's I have a recording of the 3 tones "The number you have dialed has not been recognised...." etc etc

    It does cut down on the number of calls significantly over time combined with TPS and complaining about the numbers you know (*DO* complain or TPS is worthless as above poster said).

  25. RW

    The delusions of marketers

    Cold calling merely pisses people off, aside from a few stupid or confused people who are so lonely that even a telemarketing call is welcome. What kind of marketing is it that pisses potential customers off? The same kind of marketing that inspired Phorm and inspires Google.

    This is aside from those cold calls which are actually scams - which may be the majority.

    My own funny story about screwing around with a telemarketer's head: I answered a call. The gentleman at the other end had a distinct Indian accent. I asked him if he was married. He said no. I pointed out that when he lined up a prospective bride, her parents would refuse their consent once they found out what he did for a living, or the girl would even do that herself.

    Burrow from within! Sow the seeds of doubt!

  26. Naughtyhorse

    the only solution is addresses not numbers

    then we know where to send the nail bombs to

  27. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "a phone number the callee can use to opt out of future calls"

    At what rate? Is it 0800 or 0870 or perhaps a premium rate number?

    Why not simply "press 0 if you don' t want us to call you again"???

  28. Alien Doctor 1.1


    From the TPS website:


    What is TPS?

    The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a central opt out register whereby individuals can register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls. It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS.

    The original legislation was introduced in May 1999. It has subsequently been updated and now the relevant legislation is the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

    Who can register?

    The term individual includes consumers at their residential address, sole traders and, except in Scotland, partnerships.

    How long will it take to become effective?

    Once a number has been registered it will become effective in 28 days.

    Is there any charge for registering?

    No, it's free to register on the TPS.

    Who pays for TPS?

    No money is received from the Government to run the Service, the direct marketing industry pays for it.


    It is that final sentence that makes me think it is just some massive joke.

    1. nobby


      Forgive me if I get niggly details wrong, its been a few years since I looked into this

      if you perform telemarketing in the UK you are required to subscribe to the TPS list of "numbers not to call"

      this subscription is as it says on the tin - it costs money. You are supposed to get an update every month (and so pay them every month)

      if you don't buy the updates then you are just leaving yourself open to calling a number and getting reported and fined.

      so: That's how "the direct marketing industry pays for it" - by subscription to The List.

      and That's why it "will become effective in 28 days" because by then 'everyone' should have updated their no-call lists.

    2. Ragarath

      Here's how it works.

      Marketing companies have to pay for the TPS list. It is law that they must NOT call any numbers on that list.

      If they do then are reported they are fined. Buying the list is a lot less expensive than the fines.

      I assume the 28 days is so that everyone can have the updated lists (a Company I used to work for would get list updates weekly) in time.

      There should be no need for TPS though. Direct marketing should be banned, either phone or mail.

  29. OrsonX

    paused-hello as a question = FAIL

    my method

    answer, wait 2 seconds to ensure connection, then:


    cold caller: ........ hello?

    hang up

  30. Anonymous Coward


    having recently starting to get calls where "the callers network was unable to give us the number" I have decided to leverage my loft-server (on 24/7 as a media/download server) as an automated solution.

    Modem installed, and working, so far. Just grappling with vgetty.

    My eventual aim is to use vocp to create different voiceboxes, and divert any call without a valid callerID to a message instructing the caller that only calls where the CLID is valid will be answered.

    A happy by product will be the automated recording of all calls made on the landline. As in disputes, I have never once had a company who "records calls for training and quality purposes" been able to produce a recording where they can confirm *my* version of events.

    Funny, *mobiles* get far fewer marketing calls ... I wonder if that's because they cost considerably more to call ?

  31. chris 130

    Pls invent an automated gooley kicker

    Pls invent an automated gooley kicker

    This should be desk mounted and any calls to unlisted or opt-out numbers activates it + any calls not answered in 1 second.

    I would like the option to have a user code to kick the goolies of these cretins regardless as I hate them with a vengeance, get a proper job!

  32. Anonymous Coward

    How about Sharia law?

    Hand the telemarketers over to their victims, to be dealt with as we see fit.


  33. John Tserkezis

    I love the law.

    Calling someone and abusing them is considered harrassment and/or stalking.

    The other way around is considered legal, because any caller that gets abused themselves has the good sense not to call again, thus, the caller has full control over their own abuse.

    Some telemarketers don't learn though.

    Most have the good sense to not call back, but the ones that do, get both barrels.

    I had one overseas telemarketer call me back *three* times telling me I can't do that.

    And yet I did. :-)

  34. David McCarthy

    Your TPS experience

    If you only get phone calls from overseas as you're TPS registered, you're lucky. We still get lots of UK calls even though we've been registered for 5 years!!

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019