back to article Watch out, er, 'oven cleaners': ICO plans nuisance call crackdown in 2016

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office is planning a further crackdown against nuisance call companies, with massive fines coming next year for transgressors. The non-departmental, regulatory public body imposed more than a million pound's worth of penalties on those responsible for nuisance calls and text messages in 2015 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Debt to Society

    "The fines levied so far include: a £200,000 fine to a solar panel company that made six million calls..."

    How much profit did they make from those calls? I bet it was far more than the fine.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Debt to Society

      Compare and contrast with the paltry £30,000 'fine' handed to the Daily Telegraph sending out emails in the hundreds of thousands urging people to vote tory (the first such fine handed out to a part of the mainstream media).

      Apparently subverting our democracy by trying to distort the results of a general election carries less weight than merely using an auto-dialler (note to the ICO: nuisance calls aren't the only criminal activity you're supposed to deal with, even though that's the only one you ever seem to highlight).

      And with a small fine like that there's nothing to stop the media from simply repeating the same thing again during the next general election.

      The ICO comes across as being more interested in helping those working in the industry (some of whom seem to have also worked at the ICO and in my opinion appear to be that little bit too chummy with the people in Wilmslow) than they are in actually ENFORCING THE LAW.

      Don't believe me? How many fines (or 'monetary penalties' if you want to give them their proper name) have the ICO handed out to the media? For that matter have they actually taken action against TalkTalk, or are they finding excuses to avoid taking action yet again, despite this not being the first time TalkTalk have got into hot water with their mistakes?

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Debt to Society

        I'm willing to welcome any fine for spamming as a step in the right direction, particularly as most people who matter seem to explicitly define spam as "commercial", therefore political messages are automatically exempt. So a "paltry" £30,000 fine is approximately £30,000 more than I would expect to see handed down in such a case.

        Baby steps.

        And seriously, you think anyone likely to even open an unsolicited email "from the editor of the Daily Telegraph" needs telling to vote Tory?

        1. DrBobMatthews

          Re: Debt to Society

          A great pity that the ICO does not have the authority to heavily fine every minister in this ramshackle reactionary Tory government for consistently lying to the electorate and surcharge the directors and owners of the Daily Torygraph for complicity.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Debt to Society

        "Compare and contrast with the paltry £30,000 'fine' handed to the Daily Telegraph sending out emails in the hundreds of thousands urging people to vote tory (the first such fine handed out to a part of the mainstream media)."

        Surely this comes under subverting the electoral process and should face criminal actions?

    2. enormous c word

      Re: Debt to Society

      - Exactly - all this fine did is to slightly increase the cost of doing business. Assuming an average installation fee of £25,000, then they only have to convert 1 call in 750,000. Of course that doesnt quite reflect the profits made - but you get my drift - the fine is not in proportion.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Debt to Society

        One of the questions which springs to mind is why the ICO is doing this and not Trading Standards - related bodies.

        Bearing in mind that Trading Standards do tend to be rather rabid about getting their fines paid and ensuring the misbehaviour actually STOPS

  2. John Arthur
    Mushroom

    All very well but....

    "imposed more than a million pound's worth of penalties on those responsible for nuisance calls and text messages in 2015"

    And how much money exactly was eventually collected?

  3. DaLo

    Until they can crack down on overseas call centres being used by British companies then they will continue.

    If a British company uses an overseas call centre to get leads then they should be liable for prosecution - the same way that if you use customer data without confirming that it is legally obtained you can be fined.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Until they can crack down on overseas call centres being used by British companies then they will continue."

      I don't see that this ought to be a problem. The overseas centre is acting as an agent of the British company. The British company is within the ICO's jurisdiction and you could complain appropriately.

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Pity no one honours the TPS, especially cold callers !!!!

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Pity no one honours the TPS, especially cold callers !!!!

      The TPS is a subsidiary of the British Direct Marketing Association, so of course they do as little as possible - this is the fox in charge of the hen house.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The ICO received around 170,000 complaints this year from people who’d received nuisance calls and texts, a similar number to the previous year (175,330)."

      I hope TPS aren't going to try to use a decrease in reports as "evidence of their success" - but I bet they will.

      What the decrease actually means is that more people are coming to the realisation that not only have they had their time wasted by the spam call but they've also wasted more time filing a complaint to TPS who appear to take no action whatsoever. No point in complaining so stop doing it.

      I placed an FoI enquiry to the ICO a few years ago to establish what happened to complaints. In brief, if I recall correctly, the response amounted to: if a large number of complaints are received in respect of one caller they'll get a letter telling them to stop. If complaints continue they'll get a more strongly stronger worded letter. The third stage would be a court enforcement letter such that if they continued to make illegal calls it would be contempt of court. At the time no further penalties had been implemented.

  5. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge
    Coat

    Oven Cleaning Services?

    Do they subject their victims to a good grilling?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Oven Cleaning Services?

      It sounds like the company ought to get a good roasting.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "UK consumers can opt out of receiving telemarketing calls for free by registering with the Telephone Preference Service. ®"

    Apart from if you are a BT customer, then they still call you to upsell your "customer bundle" even after opt out

    1. frank ly

      It's if the company has a 'relationship' with you that they are allowed to cold call you. This also applies to their parent company, any subsidiaries and any company they buy or get sold to or enter into a formal partership with. If you make a donation to a charity, they are allowed to cold call you in future to ask for more money because you have entered into a 'relationship' with them. The TPS is a joke.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not strictly true Even if you have a relationship with the company you can still opt out and failure to comply with an opt out is an offence under the PECR regs but that initial call is allowed (assuming you havent checked/unchecked any boxes allowing/preventing marketing) at the point of entering the relationship with the company.

        If you have told the company you dont wish to receive marketing at the outset then they can't contact you for marketing purposes.

        The issue comes with what the companies define as marketing. The regs and the ICO are quite clear as it being anything which promotes something (such as the Torygraph's 'Vote for Call Me Dave' email) wherewas companies seem to see marketing as only relating to selling you something.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "It's if the company has a 'relationship' with you that they are allowed to cold call you."

        You then make it transparently clear to them that presuming on this relationship was not a good idea on their part as it has just terminated it. If enough people do that - and mean it - then the message might get through.

        1. DrBobMatthews

          Doctor syntax. Agreed, perhaps the military approach would have the desired effect. "Teminate with extreme prejudice" That usually reduces repeat offences to zero.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "It's if the company has a 'relationship' with you that they are allowed to cold call you. This also applies to their parent company, any subsidiaries and any company they buy or get sold to or enter into a formal partership with."

        A Section 11 notice under the DPA is enough to legally restrain any of your data being used for marketing purposes or being passed to 3rd parties (and is binding on the 3rd parties as well)

        The hard part is proving any of your data has been passed on, unless you used tagged addresses.

        I've run across several mobile phone companies which ignore their obligations under this part of the law.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

    Because all these companies just offshore their call originating to India.

    Then you get the so called 'surveys'. Just a sales calls in disguise.

    My first words to these calls is 'What do you want to sell me?'

    Then it is invetably followed up by a 'go [redacted] yourself' expletive from me.

    Dialling 1471 usually results in me hearing 'the caller withheld their number'. How can I report them to the ICO if I have no number to use as a reference?

    So Mr ICO, do something to get these bastards put in jail otherwise, I'll continue doing the above to all calls like this.

    My new years resolutions are

    1) I will not and never will buy anything from a cold call

    2) I will never answer a phone survey into my lifestyle. My lifestyle is for me and not you bunch of morons

    3) I will continue to tell these callers what I think of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

      The TPS works for a limited set of companies - those that are subscribers to the scheme. Which leaves the wrong-uns operating outside the UK outside the scheme. But since I am on the TPS and the only marketing calls I get are from the wrong sort, it seems to be effective against anything the ICO could touch anyway.

      Certain techniques work for some types of call, "insurance" claims handling are best dealt with by asking for Ministry of Justice reference number - line goes dead quickly.

    2. Vimes

      Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

      2) I will never answer a phone survey into my lifestyle. My lifestyle is for me and not you bunch of morons

      3) I will continue to tell these callers what I think of them.

      You could however resist the temptation for (2) long enough by providing blatantly false answers. If you can do that then you might be able to get them to give you the company details, so you can engage happily in (3), safe in the knowledge that you now have enough information to take to the ICO...

      1. Richard Cranium

        Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

        " safe in the knowledge that you now have enough information to take to the ICO..."

        Would be worthwhile if TPS would act on the information. They don't.

      2. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

        "If you can do that then you might be able to get them to give you the company details, so you can engage happily in (3), safe in the knowledge that you now have enough information to take to the ICO..."

        The last time I took such a call, I basically said to the guy words to the effect of "This number is on the TPS list, and you shouldn't be calling it. Please give me your company details so I can register a complaint..."

        This led to a little argument whereby he was objecting to my objections on the basis that the company was helping people (to reclaim PPI fees), and that somehow made it okay to cold call numbers that shouldn't be cold called. (He did give me their details in the end, but I never made a formal complaint because I misplaced the scrap of paper I wrote them on - although it wouldn't surprise me if the details he gave were bogus anyway).

      3. DrBobMatthews

        Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

        Vimes I have a method which seems to work quite well. My 'phone and ISP link are attached to a"black box" which does the following a) Starts recording immediately I answer the 'phone for any speech call b) commences to unpick router links and creates a table for use at a later date.

        I then present the evidence to the ICO with the proviso that they commence proceedings or I will proceed against them for failing in their duty for which we the taxpayer fund them.

        Since I started this exercise 3 years ago my nuisance calls have fallen from 11 a day to 2 a month.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

      " How can I report them to the ICO if I have no number to use as a reference?"

      Ask them who they're representing. You can then make a complaint to the ICO about their principal.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

      "Then you get the so called 'surveys'. Just a sales calls in disguise."

      Which are illegal as soon as they turn into sales calls or are followed up with one.

      "My first words to these calls is 'What do you want to sell me?'"

      Wait a while, let them walk into the trap. You do have a recorder running don't you?

      "Then it is invetably followed up by a 'go [redacted] yourself' expletive from me."

      Let them talk and expose who they're working for. You waste their time and you know who to avoid.

      Don't just tell the ICO, post it on twatter, etc. It's harder for the govt to ignore.

      As for TPS - whilst registered, I gave up complaining to them years ago. The ASA, ICO and Trading Standards all have webforms you can use.

      1. John Tserkezis

        Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

        "My first words to these calls is 'What do you want to sell me?'"

        Doesn't work here in Australia. Their response is "we're not selling anything, we're just telling telling you about this great new opportunity/product blaa/fucking/blaa.

        So I default to abusing them, their family, and I spread out from there.

        I've had one call me back after I hung up, three times telling me I can't talk to her like that, and EACH TIME SHE CALLED, I gave her some more.

        It's not telephone abuse till you can't prevent it. And it's entirely within their ability to prevent this by NOT FUCKING CALLING ME.

        We do have a what appears to be equivalent "Do Not Call Register" here, but it appears to operate much like the english TPS, not worth a damned thing. There are exemptions such as government bodies, registered political parties, MPs, political candidates, religious organisations, charities and educational organisations. Notice they've covered their bases with the Political bits? They also forget to mention they don't cover spammers from outside their jurisdiction, that is, everyone outside Australia (the bulk of our spam calls). More so, you have to call and re-register every few years (though, this has been extended to eight years, or forever, depending on who you ask...). If you do wish to register online, you have to supply an email address. They just don't seem to get how this works, do they?

        Does it seem like this struck a nerve?

    5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: the TPS is not worth the paper it is written on

      "

      Dialling 1471 usually results in me hearing 'the caller withheld their number'. How can I report them to the ICO if I have no number to use as a reference?

      "

      Pretty easy. You find out the name of the company that is trying to sell you something - which is hardly something that they can keep to themselves if they are hoping to make a sale. That is the company that is obviously responsible for the call even if they have farmed it out to a third party.

  8. Phil Endecott Silver badge

    That's less than £10 per complaint.

    How long does it take to prepare and file an ICO complaint? OK, I guess this does come out at better than the minimum wage, but not by much.

    I gave up complaining long ago. The fines really need to be 100X or 1000X larger in order to be worthwhile.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The fines really need to be 100X or 1000X larger in order to be worthwhile."

      No, there needs to be an explicit right of private action in law with per-call statutory damages, filable in small claims, as with the USA's TCPA, holding both the caller and the company they work for jointly and severally liable.

      Every time this has been been brought up, the lawmakers have slapped it down on the basis that the small claims court system would melt down - that's a more-or-less explicit admission of the enormous scale of the problem.

      If it does - then there need to be concerted criminal enforcement actions and if it doesn't, we know who's in whose pocket.

      The actual level of the claim (which should be £500, tripled for wilful violation, where calling a TPS listed number is automatically wilful) is immaterial. The factor of the companies in question (and the companies which hired them(*)) facing thousands of legal claims up and down the country causes the death of a million paper cuts.

      (*) The hirers MUST face liability even if they've been defrauded by the calling company - which is a matter between those companies and has nothing to do with the callee. If the callers are the only targets, then hirers simply skip around spamming call centres. Of course, a company which refuses to name who it's hired could face further contempt proceedings if is doesn't cooperate with the courts.

  9. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Trollface

    Protip

    Screen all your incoming calls through an answering machine which has the outgoing message starting with that 3-tone chime that you get when dialling an unavailable number.

    This tone is what tells the robodialler these scum use that the number is not in service, and wipes it from it's database.

    1. Tim 11

      Re: Protip

      Does this really work? sounds like a valuable tip we should know about

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Protip

        Don't believe that ANY strategy will "get you off their lists", from the caller's perspective deleting your number is effort for no reward and in any case next time they call it may be another member of your household that answers. And some of the automated caller software just works sequentially through every number on an exchange.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Protip

          Most central offices will flag and interrupt anything dialing phone numbers sequentially. Prefacing your answering service message with the unavailable tones may work and is certainly a good tactic to try if you are getting lots of sales calls.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Protip

        "Does this really work?"

        No.

    2. nijam

      Re: Protip

      > ... t the number is not in service, and wipes it from it's database.

      There is no database or list, they seem to dial numbers at random. Or in sequence. Or something.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I use the T.P.S. (Telephone Piss off Scheme) to get my number removed.

    Double glazing - Get them all excited about my 8 window home with no double glazing and see how long they will discuss the virtues of milk with lots of factoids about milk like did you know the Milky Way was created by drops of milk from the breast of Hera, wife of Zeus, as she breast-fed Hercules, well now you do.

    PPI - Answer every question with the same question right back at them while trying to sound interested about their fictitious P.P.I. claim before explaining that you don't use money but barter for everything with camels.

    Solar Panels - Discuss at length the savings that could be made, the cost, how it all works and finally asking the all important question, Can I fit it to my middle floor flat?

    New Boiler - Discuss and then point blank refuse unless you can make a cup of tea out of it, alternatively confuse them by not understanding how domesticated fowl can heat your home.

    Overseas call centre - Swear and hang up, extra points for finding location of call centre first and use local language correctly, bonus points for phrases. e.g. Ullu ke pathe (Son of an owl)

    Accidents - Discuss at length an historical accident you claim to be part of, see how long you can pull it off for, e.g. Fidenae amphitheatre collapse circa 27ad.

    The above work, fines do not.

    1. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

      accidents

      Accidents - yes, I wind them up. A few years ago, I had several calls from indian call centres, and I fed them a lot of useless information, such as:

      Name: Adolf Eichmann

      Address: 12 Tampon Road

      One day they called me to discuss an "accident" and I recorded the whole conversation and put most of it up on youtube, along with subtitles. I led them along with my "decapitation injury".

      That's how you waste their time, and have some fun doing it.

      Here's the link: https://youtu.be/UakaSdXk8ZI

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Yes, this sort of thing works, but you have got to have both the time and the inclination, so this is not for everyone. But if you do, it can be fun - wasting some direct marketing guy's time until he hangs up in frustration, this feels really great. Instead of acing stupid or something like that you can also open with "sounds interesting - but first I'd like to talk to you about our Lord and Saviour for a minute". That usually does the trick much, much faster. Oh, and when you get calls from the guys who want to talk religion, open with "sounds interesting - but first I'd like to talk to you about sex for a minute". That also works fine.

      1. Captain DaFt

        -when you get calls from the guys who want to talk religion, open with "sounds interesting - but first I'd like to talk to you about sex for a minute".-

        I've found that trying to convert them to either Hinduism or Buddhism* usually gets me disconnected rather quickly. Or at least I did. Oddly it's been several years since I received such a call.

        *Whichever one I can recall the details to most quickly at the moment.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Oh, and when you get calls from the guys who want to talk religion, open with "sounds interesting - but first I'd like to talk to you about sex for a minute". That also works fine.

        As does playing Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias' Jesus Wept loud enough for the caller to hear:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6DuS78g8mk

    3. graeme leggett

      For uPVC barge boards/etc (which now most everyone in the country has had replacement windows seems to be the in thing), tell them you're in a conservation area or that they won't match the genuine Norfolk reed thatch (bonus points for getting that one past them if your address is Flat D, 250 Streatham High Street).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "if your address is Flat D, 250 Streatham High Street"

        It isn't but it could be.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The above work, fines do not."

      No it doesn't. Do the maths.

      When the call is from India you're talking a daily pay rate of around USD4. Compare with UK where the average daily pay is more like USD100.

      So an average UK citizen wasting 10 minutes with a call centre has a lost opportunity cost in the region of of USD2 and has cost the call centre operative less than 10 cents

      So who's the mug?

      Of course "UK average pay" isn't what UK call centre people get but even if you only value your own time at statutory minimum it's costing you as much as the caller.

      Next look at the potential return on a successful call. The outright scams in particular like the fake "You've got a virus" calls. The value to the caller is maybe USD200 for "fixing the problem and installing anti-virus software". Two months pay in India. But that's just the start of the story.

      They've got enough information about you for identity theft, if not from the conversation and your payment details then from exploring the files on your hard-disk.

      Then, as the "anti-virus software" is actually a trojan there's the revenue to be made from selling your PC into a botnet and, when all other opportunities are exhausted, to install ransomware.

      One successful call can deliver a total sum equivalent to an average Indian's lifetime earnings. Put yourself in their shoes - how much of your time would you be prepared to waste if the potential reward was so much money you'd never need to work again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        One would like to think, that if a UK-based company is fined £20,000 for activities carried out on its behalf by an Indian call centre, that they phoned the boss up at the other place and say something along the lines of "you cost me twenty grand, I wants me money back or the boys will be calling". Thereby knocking the enthusiasm of the call centre's management for trying it on.

        But I may be getting my wires crossed with a Guy Ritchie film....

        Have there been any violent gangster films where a call centre gets shot up? May be a market to be tapped.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I use the T.P.S. (Telephone Piss off Scheme) to get my number removed."

      Simpler version. Send them for a long weight. For those not acquainted with the ancient industrial practical joke, ask them to hold the line for a moment and prolong the moment for several minutes before hanging up.

    6. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I just ask them to hold on while I grab a pen, then leave the phone next to the TV or radio so they have something to listen to. Occasionally shout "just a sec, it's under here somewhere" to keep them hanging on and there you go, minimum effort from oneself, with maximum time wasted for the caller.

      I've managed to keep a double glazing seller on the line for eight minutes, how well can you do?

      (I don't like swearing at the person at the other end of the phone, they're usually just doing a crap job for crap pay. It's the owners/managers that I want to swear at)

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "(I don't like swearing at the person at the other end of the phone, they're usually just doing a crap job for crap pay. It's the owners/managers that I want to swear at)"

        I do. In fact I aim to specifically have them screaming or reduce them to tears.

        The number of such illegal calls where the caller is unaware they're illegal after the first day on the job is a number approaching zero. It costs these companies money to have high staff turnover. Occasionally I've managed to make one believe they're facing criminal charges personally and induced them to hand over a lot of information about the company they're working for in order to avoid going to court (in some cases blubbing they they were forced to work for XYZ company by the local Job Centre or lose benefits)

        Crap job or not, it's still willing participation in an illegal scam and as such the callers deserve no sympathy whatsoever. If they really are facing benefits sanctions for refusing to partake of an illegal scheme then the people in the local jobseekers' office are the ones who need to face criminal charges (and are probably related to the scam outfit in some way).

  11. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Combi boilers...

    ...seems to be the latest scam. Been getting calls from random incorrect numbers (ie non-standatd STD code or not enough digits to be a real number).

    It's almost always a robocall telling me that for "no money up front" I can get a new boiler on a government scheme "in your area" and all boilers "should be replaced by 2016"

    It's not just wrong, it's actually an outright lie. Maybe next time I'll "press 2 for more information" and see what happens. Unless that's the scam of course. Maybe pressing 2 initiates an outgoing charge to me. Is that possible?

    1. TheProf
      Devil

      Re: Combi boilers...

      I mash all the keys on the phone when robo-called because one of them is going to be the 'call the customer back' key.

      Then I can tell a real person that I'm not interested in whatever he's selling and I just wanted to waste their time for a change.

    2. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Combi boilers...

      This one rather annoys pisses me off as well. I got (note past tense) seriously hacked off at the implication that there was some sort of legal requirement to get the work done. For some unaccountable reason "press 9 to be removed from our list" never seemed to work, so I bit the bullet on one occasion and pressed 2 instead to try to speak to someone. Having establised contact I forcefully demanded the removal of my number and so far that seems to have been effective. (Note "so far"...)

      Given that there is little or nothing to be had "free"* these days I often wonder if I (well we actually) could ever actually finish up saving money. Three score years and 10 is getting uncomfortably close and I suspect that I (we) would never actually finish up in profit. Oh and we have very little south - facing roof so solar panels are out as well.

      A bank/building society/financial advisor can be penalised for mis - selling an investment, and age is a relevant factor. I wonder if the same applies to unnecessary boiler and solar panel sales as well?

      *<pedant>Does anyone else on El Reg actively hate the expression "for free"? If something costs nothing then it is free not "for free". Grr. </pedant>

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Combi boilers...

        I often wonder if I (well we actually) could ever actually finish up saving money.

        Several years ago, the Australian government was heavily subsidising solar PV so I decided to get a quote when the subsidy was about to be substantially reduced. To achieve the savings claimed by one of the most reputable providers, the array would have needed to generate 140% of capacity. With luck, which included the feed-in tariff remaining high, the time to payback was 16-18 years*. Anticipated useful life of the array 25 years.

        * Depends on how diligent you are climbing on the roof every few weeks to clean the dust and bird shit off the panels.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Combi boilers...

          "Anticipated useful life of the array 25 years."

          Which is hopelessly optimistic.

          Older crystalline panels have a 12 year lifespan. Newer, higher efficiency amorphous sillicon ones are about 8 years.

          After 25 years either of these panels would be producing less than 40% of their brand new rating, no matter how clean you kept them.

      2. Jan 0
        Pint

        Re: "for free"

        Please steal a beer from all users of that ridiculous expression. It's almost as bad as "free, gratis and for nothing",

        1. nijam

          Re: "for free"

          > ... "free, gratis and for nothing"

          At least that's a valid form of emphasis by repetition, even if it is very, very irritating.

    3. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

      Re: Combi boilers...

      No, it's not possible.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Combi boilers...

        No, it's not possible."

        Thanks, I thought that was the case.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Combi boilers...

      There's a reason for the combi boiler calls.

      There are NOX emission standards for new boilers that have been in place since the early 2000s and older systems were grandfathered in, but there's a sunset clause in the exemption.

      That sunset clause is being activated in some areas (especially London) as more than half the NOX levels recorded in Central London (and almost all of the NOX levels outside that zone) are actually emissions from older gas or oil-fired boilers, not from cars. Combis have almost unmeasureable NOX emissions which is one of the reasons they're pushed hard.

      Yes, there are govt-backed schemes to finance the upgrades, but these calls are just chancers. Having said that, if you're in an affected area code you can expect saturation calling over the next 12-18 months.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Combi boilers...

        "Combis have almost unmeasureable NOX emissions which is one of the reasons they're pushed hard."

        Do you mean combis specifically, or do you mean condensing boilers in general, or something different?

        It's hard for me to see why a combi's NOx emissions would be better than an equivalent condensing-but-not-combi boiler. Enlightenment welcome.

  12. bon_the_one

    But...

    How can they fine the fraudulent operators in other Countries using SIP to access the UK PSTN though? Someone with a foreign accent kept calling my Old Dad in the UK claiming to be from Microsoft, and wanting access to his computer because there were issues they needed to fix... (Dad's on a Linux distro BTW... ;) )

    I also know a few switchboards that run out of Spain, using UK Ex-Pats to staff them so they sound more credible. Again, using SIP to gate in to the UK.

    They might get a few UK based places, but my impression is most of this comes from outside the UK and I don't see how they are going to stop that by imposing fines they cannot enforce...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: calls originating outside the UK

      " I don't see how they are going to stop that by imposing fines they cannot enforce...?"

      Some business in the UK is typically paying the coldcallers to make those calls, even if the calls are originating (or even just routed via) somewhere outside the UK.

      The punishment (which should not just be fines but should involve a period of confinement at Her Majesty's pleasure) should presumably apply as much to the people instructing and paying the coldcallers as they do to the actual coldcallers. Surely that would be common sense (which of course makes it almost infinitely improbable).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: calls originating outside the UK

        I suspect that the foreign call centre dumps the UK clients' "rules of engagement" (if it existed) in the bin and works on the principle that so long as they don't tell any pissed-off recipient of the call who the paymaster is then it won't come back to bite them.

        Certainly they don't want to be slowed down by running do not call lists, and paying for access to TPS's list would hit their margin.

  13. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Call Screening Phone

    I bought a phone which only allows a whitelist of numbers to ring straight through. Other numbers and withheld numbers get a message and an option to say who they are before the the phone rings. They say their name and then the phone rings and phone announces them. I then have the option of taking or ignoring the call, and also adding the number to a white or blacklist with the press of a button (allow, block, allow once). All cold callers hang up before leaving their name.

    It works fine and I haven't had a cold call since I got it. Note, however, that I don't get many landline calls and those I do are from less than a dozen family and friends who are all in the whitelist. If I used the phone a lot for non-regular callers then it might be a bit of a pain to manage - e.g. my car insurance company got a bit shirty because they thought that I just left the phone on answering machine and never got back to them.

    1. Joe 37

      Re: Call Screening Phone

      My (NHS) employer is not prepared to release any real numbers. It hands out a fake number that cannot be answered.

      This IMO is criminal and I'll get a list of the fake CLI they issue to be blocked by all sane persons.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Call Screening Phone

      "I bought a phone which only allows a whitelist of numbers to ring straight through. "

      Which is why there's a class of malware which snarfs phone lists from mobiles and sends messages forged from the victim (or smses directly from that phone).

  14. BobRocket

    Somebody else's problem

    The ICO are not interested in fixing this problem because on the one hand they are not accountable to the sufferers and on the other they are pressured by vested interests towards inaction.

    If I receive what I consider to be a nuisance call (spam) and I press 5 (and hold) during the call then that number should be blocked by my service provider from now on (the SP is free to route it to an ELIZA machine if they want)

    If I receive what I consider to be a criminal call (phishing/scam) and I press 6 (and hold) during the call then the number is blocked as above but the details (and call recording) are passed to the relevant authorities for investigation.

    It's not rocket science, it's simple programming.

    First one to implement it gets my business.

  15. Mark Allen

    I put them on "hold"

    I tell them I need to get the "boss" to answer their questions. Then put them on "Hold". Slinging the phone handset under my speakers while I select a few new tracks for them. I have an interesting selection of Hold Music. Generally some nice lively aggressive Punk music. Though for the next few weeks playlist has been changed to Motörhead.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: I put them on "hold"

      " the next few weeks playlist has been changed to Motörhead."

      Isn't that Overkill?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I put them on "hold"

        Only if you use the Bomber.

  16. Joe 37

    TPS is a waste of time. Who operates the database? It was Wetherseal - the worst offenders of all.

    Classic Tory "self regulation"

    Scum phone calls/texts/emails seem to be from people who give the current government lots of money.

    The telcos don't care as they are getting paid.

    The telcos encourage premium rate fraud as they get paid.

    Make the telcos responsible for what they pass on. Problem is "Net neutrality" has just died. Or that's what they are going to scream.

    The day the telcos stop profiting from fraud is the day premium rate numbers stop existing.

  17. Joe 37

    Have you ever heard of an organisation called PhonePayPlus?

    The police don't want to know they refer you to the "regulator"

    Sorry guys! Fraud is fraud.

    Don't ask the guys who profit from the fraud - AKA "PhonepayPlus" whose imposed "fines" fund them to sort you out.

    They don't care.

    And don't listen

    And don't act against spamming scum.

    1. KeithR

      Re: Have you ever heard of an organisation called PhonePayPlus?

      "Sorry guys! Fraud is fraud"

      Sorry, Joe - obnoxious as this behaviour is, it ain't fraud.

      The police are right.

  18. Pompous Git Silver badge

    I was cold called on Sunday 25 April 2010... at 4 am! As usual, it was a Merkin; only Merkins call expecting to sell you shit you don't want in the small hours. However, here's how the conversation progressed:

    Pompous Git: Why would I buy anything from a criminal?

    Caller: I'm not a criminal!

    Pompous Git: This number is on a "do not call" list. It's illegal to cold call on a Sunday. It's illegal to call before 9 am. It's illegal to call on a national holiday and today is ANZAC day.

    Caller: Australian law doesn't apply to Americans.

    Pompous Git: I'm really glad of that. When I murder the next American I meet, I will do so with a clear conscience.

    [click]

  19. Joe 37

    This nightmare is where our politicians of all parties want us to go. The spamming scum get paid for spamming us. Get rid of PhonePayPlus! Get rid of the ICO. Replace them with an organisation that gives a shit..

    And doesn't reckon that public bodies are its only target.

    Go after the scum using Indian call centres.

    And stop UK.Gov and NHS.net bodies from handing out fake Caller ID.

    1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Go after the scum using Indian call centres.

      I had to read that sentence twice...

  20. Graham Marsden
    Mushroom

    Why does anonymous call blocking...

    ... not block anonymous calls?

    When I do 1471 and get a message saying "We do not have the caller's number", THAT is as good a definition of "anonymous" as you can get, yet those calls *still* get through to my phone.

    WHY? It is hardly rocket science to realise that if I can get that message *after* I do 1471, then my phone company can do it *before* they put the call through and, if it thinks "Oh, I would play the 'we do not have the caller's number' message if someone does 1471, then it does *NOT* put the fucking junk call through!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why does anonymous call blocking...

      There are sometimes valid reasons for not being identifiable by 1471. A large organisation such as a college may have many departments and one external number. If someone from the college calls a student at home, gets no reply and there is no answering machine, then they will hang up. If a student uses 1471 and rings the college switchboard, who do they put the call through to? The original caller could have been a lecturer calling about an essay, or Finance calling about a payment, or Security calling about lost property...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why does anonymous call blocking...

        A reputable company/organization puts a generic (switchboard etc) number on their setup. BT call it a "presentation number". It's useful for hiding your company's direct d ial extension numbers from every Tom Dick and Harry.

        But it does cost extra, so I expect many businesses don't do it.

  21. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Individual fines please

    It's all very well to impose large-ish fines on bad callers, but the whole process of complaining is soul-destroying, so who bothers? Much more practical would be a fixed £250 fine for cold-calling someone on TPS (or paying someone to do it), split 75:25 between the recipient of the call and the ICO. £500 for second call to the same number, £1000 for 3rd etc. Incentives all round to complain.

    Wonder why no-one at the ICO has thought of it? Oh, I know, they're a bunch of useless self-abusers.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Individual fines please

      I have a slightly better scheme in mind.

      Assign a number in the 147x range.

      Instead of dialling 1471, dial that number.

      Your telco refunds you £1 on your account and debits the account of the caller (assuming it's one of their customers) with the charge plus their surcharge for operating the scheme. If the call came from a different telco they charge that telco instead as an additional call terminating charge.

      This chain carries on, accreting additional service charges, until it finally hits either the caller or a telco sufficiently stupid to accept calls without knowing where they came from.

      The end effect is that the caller pays the callee for the annoyance caused.

      It would require the telcos to put up investment for setting it up but if it were a requirement than it just becomes part of the cost of doing business which they'd recover from their charges.

      It would also require some monitoring to prevent some bright spark from just doing that to legitimate calls.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Individual fines please

      "Wonder why no-one at the ICO has thought of it?"

      It's been thought of - the USA's TCPA. The ICO has been repeatedly pointed towards the TCPA's sucesses in reining in the worst abuse. They refuse to consider it in the UK.

  22. Steve Kerr
    Mushroom

    Death penalty

    Reintroduce the death penalty for any management of British companies found to be doing this.

    Kill 2 birds with one stone so to speak :)

    Bit extreme but will fix the issue very quickly.

  23. Paratrooping Parrot
    Mushroom

    Made up Caller ID numbers

    Will they be able to prosecute those who make up caller ID numbers? We had many calls from those who use incomplete phone numbers in the Caller ID. They all seem to be selling PPI or are ambulance chasers.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Made up Caller ID numbers

      I'll post a pointer here towards "call control" on android. Only for mobiles though.

      It's payware but it works. Collaborative call blocking, like a DNSBL for phone spammers.

  24. Fihart

    Be a nuisance back.

    When these robots call they usually urge one to press 5 to speak to an operative. Doing that while switching on an intruder alarm siren (loud enough for me to don ear protectors) obviously had an effect on the PPI pests. The next call I had offered to delist my number. When I ignored that, the calls dried up anyway.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Be a nuisance back.

      "Doing that while switching on an intruder alarm siren (loud enough for me to don ear protectors) "

      Can result in you facing criminal prosecution - seriously - don't do it.

      In any case, call centres are required by H&S law these days to have level limiters on the headsets to protect against people doing exactly what you just did.

  25. Joey

    If you specifically ask a call center to remove your number from their list, they are obliged to do so. If they call you again, you just say that you asked to be removed from their list. That shuts them up. I seldom hang-up on a cold call, I prefer to take the pi55 for as long as possible.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "If you specifically ask a call center to remove your number from their list, they are obliged to do so."

      Not under UK law, unfortunately. The only legally binding method is a DPA section 11 notice made in writing (email is classified as written for this purpose).

      Under USA law "Put this number on your do not call list" has legal meaning and further calls from the same call centre for any reason incurs "wilful call" clauses in the TCPA.

      You really do need to draw them out long enough to expose who they're selling for in order to make sure the complaint sticks. This is particularly the case for PPI scammers as the call centres work for aggregators who only pass promising cases to lawyers (they'll filter out the adolf eichmanns) - you need to sound credible enough to get the lawyers who hired the callers involved, then file complaints with the ICO. Recordings are required to make it all stick.

  26. Ray Merrall

    Revenge of the Scammed!

    Once, when I had some spare time, I managed to convince the guy at the other end that I was a police officer investigating a murder, that I needed to know his name, the name and address of the company so that an officer from his local force could visit and pick up the tapes to see if one of the other people had actually spoken to the murderer earlier. I was transferred to a team manager (hint: they are always with in 20 metres of the caller, no matter what else you are told when you ask to speak to one) and managed to waste her time, until I had to do something else. I just told her that the whole conversation was based on a fiction similar to the one about the original call being about a survey, but that I thanked her for the information, which along with the recording, I was going to pass on to the Trading Standards and police. I learnt some interesting phrases before the phone call was abruptly ended. Pity, I had no record of the call! It is, of course, illegal to impersonate a police officer in the course of their duty, and so my legal advisor has just told me to add that everything I have just written is fictional and not based on anyone living or dead....

  27. MBD1

    Law helps - but is it really necessary?

    I enjoy asking them to come round and not being there! Antisocial behaviour seems an appropriate response and rather destroys the economics of the exercise.The only reason people make these calls is because they work - the perpetrators aren't a charity dedicated to annoying people. Oh, and I usually recommend my hot-prospect MP's parliamentary and constituency office numbers too! If we all treated this behaviour with the disrespect it deserves, it would stop overnight - as soon as the perps ran out of money.

    I accept that sometimes law is necessary, but sometimes appropriate mass behaviour is much cheaper and as effective.

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