Ofcom boosts efforts to trace nuisance callers as study finds numbers have DOUBLED in a year

Ofcom boosts efforts to trace nuisance callers as study finds numbers have DOUBLED in a year
Three quarters of landline owners received an unwelcome marketing call in the past year

– up from one in four the year before, according to telecommunications watchdog Ofcom.

At the same time, almost three in four received some form of hard-sell cold call from salesmen pushing everything from compensation for accidents that never happened to home broadband.

Fury: Nearly half of us have reported receiving a marketing call in the past year (file photo)

Fury: Nearly half of us have reported receiving a marketing call in the past year (file photo)

Silent calls are caused by call centre
computers which randomly dial thousands of numbers and should have a
salesman ready to talk to anyone who picks up. However, often the firms
do not have enough staff, which means recipients are met with silence.

In theory, companies are banned from
making such calls on the basis they can cause nuisance and distress,
particularly to the elderly who often live alone.

Yesterday, Ofcom promised a fresh crackdown on silent calls, including efforts to find and fine the culprits up to 2million.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director
general at Age UK, said: 'A hike in silent calls is very disappointing
news, particularly for older people since they cause a great deal of
anxiety and distress.

'We're pleased to see Ofcom has put a
plan in place which we hope will reduce the problem significantly.'

Much of the responsibility for the surge in cold calls lies with claims
management firms who promise either big refunds to people who may have
been mis-sold payment protection insurance or compensation related to
accidents.

Campaign: Ofcom has announced it will crack down on marketing calls

Campaign: Ofcom has announced it will crack down on marketing calls

Last year, a Surrey man turned the
tables on one firm by sending it a bill for 195 for wasting his time.
Richard Herman charged the firm, which was promising PPI compensation, a
modest 10 per minute.

The marketing company, AAC, agreed to pay 195
for 19-and-a-half minutes of calls after he took them to the small
claims court.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: 'We want claims management firms banned from all types of cold calling.'

Ofcom has taken some steps to punish
firms responsible for silent calls. HomeServe, which sells insurance for
household problems, and energy firm Npower were fined a total of
800,000 last year, while broadband supplier TalkTalk is currently under
investigation.

'We want claims management firms banned from all types of cold calling.'

Citizens Advice

The watchdog said: 'Research suggests that, during a
six-month period in 2012, almost half – 47per cent – of all adults with a
landline experienced a silent call, up from a quarter – 24per cent – in
2011.'

The same study found about two in
three people received a recorded marketing message and almost three in
four were called at home by a salesman of some kind.

Such sales calls are not illegal and
Ofcom has no power to stop them, however householders can choose to opt
out of receiving junk calls by contacting the Telephone Preference
Service.

Ofcom consumer group director Claudio
Pollack said: 'Nuisance calls can cause annoyance, inconvenience and
anxiety. Ofcom is determined to work with industry and other regulators
to help protect consumers.'

It has been working with the
Information Commissioners Office, the Office of Fair Trading and the
Ministry of Justice to identify companies which break the rules and,
where possible, impose sanctions.

The watchdog has also devised what it
calls a five-point action plan, which includes putting together a panel
of people who will keep a diary and recording of all the calls they get.
Businesses responsible for silent calls will be sent written warnings
that they face fines of up to 2million.