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Government forces 'intrusive' cold callers to display their phone numbers

Monday, April 25th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Cold callers will be forced to display their phone number in the latest step aimed at fighting nuisance calls, the government has announced.

The measure, expected to come into force on 16 May, means marketing companies will no longer be able to hide or disguise their phone numbers.

It means direct marketing companies registered in the UK need to display their phone numbers when making unsolicited phone calls, even if their call centres are based abroad.

Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister for data protection and nuisance calls, said: “Nuisance calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant harm to elderly and vulnerable members of society.

“Government is committed to tackling this problem, which is why we are making it easier for consumers to report companies by forcing them to display their phone numbers.

“We’re sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.”

The new rules are not only aimed at helping people refuse and report nuisance calls, but also making sure the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can investigate and take action against companies who flout the rules.

Recently it was announced that the ICO has issued fines totalling £895,000.

Companies can risk fines of up to £2m from Ofcom and a further £500,000 from the ICO if they continue to bombard consumers with unwanted calls.

'Unscrupulous'

ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said: “Any change that makes it easier for us to track down and take action against companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause.

“We do investigate unscrupulous companies who hide their identities, and we can track them down, but it certainly makes our job more difficult.

“And when people are able to identify the number behind the call they’ve received, they’re more likely to complain to us and that means we’re more able to take action.

“We welcome this move, which we’ve been consulted on throughout.”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe previously described nuisance calls as a form of harassment.

Speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) conference on data protection earlier this year, she said they shouldn’t be dismissed as an “unfortunate by-product of the rapid growth in data-led marketing”.

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