Wednesday 27th of January 2016 11:27
We’ve all got our own stories to tell of how we (or someone we know) has been relentlessly inundated by unsolicited phishing calls from often unsavoury businesses hell-bent on pressuring the person on the other end of the phone into a sale of a product or service they could quite easily continue to live without.
Usually preying on the more vulnerable in society, the media has long picked up on the plague of the nuisance callers who, if they’re not heartlessly targeting the indefensible, are randomly calling us to offer their ‘help/premium rate services’ in following up a car crash we were never involved in from the outset.
And if we manage to avoid or side-swerve this type of pestering call we instead (and invariably) have to field a call from someone trying to help us reclaim the PPI we (similarly) NEVER took out in the first place; so the chances of us being mis-sold it, and ergo in line for recompense – are purely academic.
Whichever way you look at it, unwanted/nuisance calls are the bane of our lives and seemingly there appears little we can do to curtail the antics of the perpetuators of this largely unseen crime-of-sorts.
Or is there?
Agreed, unwanted phone calls should be banned in many instances due to the persistence and tack the caller takes, and at the very least they should be regulated more, but is there REALLY anything we can do about those responsible?
Well yes there is, and this blog piece explains just what steps YOU can make to put an end to something which we have tolerated (and or turned a blind eye to) for too long now, believing that there’s no recourse and nuisance calls are simply a fact of life in the 21st Century.
The bottom line is we needn’t suffer in silence (an oxymoron if ever!) and instead we can do quite a few things to bring the perpetuators of unwanted and recurrent calls to task.
For example did you know that you are perfectly within your consumer rights (just ask Watchdog if in doubt) to register an official complaint about a particular company (or specific number) making unwanted calls and texts to a number of organisations? Nope? Well you do now.
Organisations such as the TPS, your phone operator, Ofcom (which covers silent and abandoned calls) or the ICO.
Admittedly you may not know who or what the TPS or ICO is, so let’s put you in the picture early doors.
The TPS is an acronym of the Telephone Preference Service and is a central opt-out register whereby individuals can register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls. And for the record you’ll be pleased to learn that it’s a legal requirement that companies do NOT make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS.
The ICO stands for the ‘Information Commissioner's Office’; which is an independent authority based here in the UK that champions the openness of official information and the protection of private information.
With regards to the powers at the disposal of the ICO we’ve recently seen the threshold at which the ICO is allowed to act significantly lowered to a level whereby it now has a mandate to fine obtrusive companies up to a sum of £500,000 should they contravene the existing rules on unsolicited texts and phone calls received by frustrated consumers.
Looking at the role the TPS plays in helping the brow-beaten deal with flurries of unwanted calls and once you register with them you’ll find you’re far better placed to fend off the unwelcome advances of unscrupulous and persistent phone call offenders.
Essentially the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is free to use and once you’ve signed-up (your policy comes into effect within 28 days) a record is henceforth held clearly stating that you don’t wish to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.
In the event that you still harassed by cold-callers you then have an officially recognised platform in which to make a complaint to the TPS who will then investigate the root cause of this under its own steam and on your behalf.
Although the TPS itself doesn’t have the means to enforce any punishment upon any guilty parties or seek prosecution on its own, it does fast-track your complaints directly to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) which has the power to take action. And as mentioned above, it’s vital to remember that it’s illegal for companies to bombard customers who have registered with the TPS unless they’ve been provided consent to be approached by certain individual organisations, known as being “Opted in”
Aside from the provisions offered by both the ICO and TPS it’s also hugely important and worthwhile to be extra vigilant yourself and don’t make the job of these phishing companies that much easier by leaving a virtual paper trail which they can pursue you by following.
Effectively DON’T consent to be contacted. By that we mean avoid allowing your personal details to be ‘sold on’ to other, third party and extra-curricular companies for marketing purposes.
In reality this means keeping your eyes peeled for tick boxes which allow you to opt in or opt out of various features, request and instructions; whereby you could easily be hoodwinked into allowing unseen organisations lawfully-obtained access to both you and your details.
We can’t overstress the need to look out for tick boxes that request consent for your details to be passed onto third parties. Typically very small (blink and you’ll miss it size and position-wise on a page) if you do not want other companies to contact you, ensure that you haven’t ticked the box. And also keep tabs on just who you’ve granted permission to contact you, as if you've consented to receive marketing from a specific company then this organisation is allowed to call you at the end of the day (not literally, although most likely); even if you've registered with the TPS!
That said, companies MUST stop calling you if you explicitly ask them to.
Another option you may wish to consider is that of services which allocate users a special phone number which callers are routed to that plays a message that goes something along the lines of ‘(insert name of service-providing company) is now handling my calls. I prefer not being contacted by my phone, so if you could instead send me an email I’d be more appreciative, etc, etc’.
In other words what you’re getting is a bespoke answer machine message which is recorded on your behalf and which saves you having to fend off unwanted calls 24/7. Geared up towards those forms we all fill in from time to time (you know the ones which ask us to enter our phone numbers, rather than give them our real numbers - be it mobile phone, office or landline -) you’d enter a specific number in its place. Simply by inputting this message-forwarding number in place of your own, should any nuisance calls happen to come your way (in the aftermath of completing a form) then they’d be met with a concise recorded message.
OK, your email might then be open to an onslaught (although most phishing companies DON’T waste time with emails, preferring to speak with people), but at least you won’t then be inundated around the clock by nuisance callers once they (literally) get the – succinct – message.
Finally something else besides the aforementioned is call-blocking technology, the type which are promoted and readily available in gadget functionality and which have witnessed a sharp growth in both interest and subsequent sales in recent times as many people attempt to limit the sheer volume of nuisance calls they get.
An increasing number of companies can now offer a range of services that can help block unwanted calls, with prices varying according to the service you ideally require. From a monetary perspective this can be anywhere between ‘free’ access to monthly charges which are added to an existing/pre-agreed policy/tariff.
As part and parcel of these call-blocking packages in most cases you’ll gain access to services including ‘caller display’ (which as you’re already probably aware flags up the number of the person calling, which acts as an early warning system should you not recognise the number) along with ‘incoming call blocking’ (which prevents selected numbers from getting through) and ‘caller identification’ (or 1471 functionality).
Somewhat ironically www.theguardian.com reported that a couple of nuisance call-blocking companies which provided dedicated equipment to counter unsolicited calls had themselves been slapped with fines; we can only assume for bothering would-be customers in the most ‘you-couldn’t-make-this-up’ sort of twist: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/aug/11/nuisance-call-blocking-company-fined-for-bullying-and-aggressive-calls
On a more serious note though, and naturally there are various pros and cons to call-blocking/re-routing phone services which you might want to take into account before deciding on whether or not this is the right course of action for you to take; which we have compiled in an easily digestible, at-a-glance idea of just how this sort of provision could benefit you, or not as the case may be.
The biggest plus point is obviously reducing the amount of nuisance calls you receive, while giving you control back over just who you speak to which to our minds provides a huge argument for the ‘pro’ camp.
Conversely the cons as such can amount to current pricing (still making them prohibitive to some budgets) and the risk of bulk blocking numbers brings with it the potential missing of a call from a hospital-admitted or stranded abroad family member.
It’s fair to say it would be nice if we all lived in a world where it wasn’t necessary to go to these lengths so that people finally get the message, but alas we don’t and therefore we need to take whatever measures are deemed successful in warding off the unwanted attentions of companies who often don’t give up easily and rarely take no for an answer.
The beauty of most of the abovementioned is that all can provide you with some level of protection, and would especially bring peace of mind to those older or more vulnerable relatives.
As a footnote, systems such as the ones described hereabouts tend to cost between £40 and £120, yet in terms of effectiveness are certainly worth the initial outlay according to many experts. Addressing the call re-routing-come-standard response message concept alone (of which there are a number of examples now emerging), Trading Standards discovered during a recent trial that this form of messaging system blocked a staggering 98% of unwanted calls. Which is surely worth the expense in anyone’s book.
However it really needn’t be like this and not ALL telemarketing firms plague people. In fact many can actually take ‘no’ for an answer and NOT bother them again; and make every effort to follow industry protocol and procedure when dealing with the general public. So you’ll be pleased to learn that here at Hardy Evans we routinely comply with TPS guidelines and are certainly NOT in the business of hounding people.
And it’s not just ourselves who adhere to the rules and regulations at all times and operate within the parameters set out by the industry watchdogs as a whole to ensure that we continue the mutually trusted and respectful working relationship we have fostered and perpetuate with our client base.
Many telemarketing companies such as Hardy Evans do all they can to instil this sense of professionalism and courteous approach to ALL our communications, and with this in mind we NEVER hide our identity to callers, ALWAYS present a telephone number by which people can return calls on, PRIDE ourselves on our EXTREMELY low complaint rate (based on the call volume less than .001%) and CONVEY both friendliness and politeness when dealing with clients who don’t wish to receive calls from the outset.
Hardy Evans Ltd
16A Axis Court