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Government announces new measure in war on nuisance calls

Tuesday, January 12th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Telemarketing companies will have to display their phone number on caller ID under new plans set out today by the government.

The proposal is aimed at making it easier for consumers to complain to regulators about unsolicited calls.

A fifth of direct marketing calls reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last year as a nuisance call did not provide a valid caller ID.

Making it a legal requirement for companies to provide their number will make it easier for consumers to refuse and report unwanted calls – and for the ICO to investigate and take action against firms that repeatedly break the rules.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for data protection, said: “Being pestered by marketing calls is annoying at the best of times and at its worst it can bring real misery for the people on the receiving end.

“There is no simple solution to the problem of nuisance calls, but making direct marketing companies display their telephone number will help consumers and regulators take action.

“Companies are already being financially punished when they blatantly flout the rules, and mandatory caller ID is just another step we are taking as part of a closely-coordinated effort with regulators, industry and consumer groups to tackle the problem.”

Companies found breaching the law by making nuisance calls can be fined up to £500,000 depending on the type of calls and severity of the case.

Over the past few years there has been a substantial rise in the number of complaints to the ICO about nuisance marketing calls and texts, with an increase of more than 11% in 2014/15 alone.

The government has already made it easier for the ICO to punish the companies making nuisance calls by removing the legal threshold for taking action.

It has also made it easier for the information watchdog to share information with telecoms regulator Ofcom in relation to nuisance calls.

Since January 2012, the ICO has issued fines totalling nearly £2m for serious cases of nuisance calls.

In September 2015, Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELM) was fined £200,000 for making more than six million nuisance calls as part of a massive automated call marketing campaign.

The government is consulting on its latest proposal until 23 February and plans to bring the measure into force in spring 2016.

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