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Government must act now to stop intrusive cold calling

National Accident Helpline research reveals worrying level of distress and harassment caused

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26 November 2014 / by National Accident Helpline Communications / company-announcements

Government intervention is urgently needed to stop millions of disruptive and distressing cold calls, according to research from National Accident Helpline.

Headline findings include:

  • 73% don't think the Government is doing enough to prevent cold calls
  • 70% think the “tick box system” to opt out of calls doesn’t work
  • 66% aren't confident they know where to report cold calls
  • 40% receive more than nine cold calls on their landline every month

National Accident Helpline never uses cold calling to win business, but every year receives up to a thousand complaints from people who are being targeted by cold calls from people posing as the company.

Urgent action is needed by the Government and regulators. National Accident Helpline today launches a new three-step campaign ‘Stop Nuisance Calls’ to reform how the public is protected from these calls. Worryingly, over half of those questioned as part of the research (56%) said cold calls are causing them distress.

National Accident Helpline’s key campaign asks are:

  • For the Government to set up a one-stop complaints process to help consumers understand how to stop unwanted cold calls and make an effective complaint
  • A commitment by Government to take stronger legal action against cold calls coming from international numbers, alongside ongoing work to ensure regulators can prosecute domestic cold calls more effectively
  • Simple, clear and consistent ‘opt-ins’ to email marketing or calls, that don’t trick or confuse consumers

Two fifths of respondents (40%) received over nine cold calls on their landline in the past month, indicating the scale of the issue. A further one in five (19%) reported receiving nine or more calls to their mobile.

Cold calls were also found to be impinging on private time – more than three quarters (78%) of respondents said that cold calls interrupted them during meal times, and a similar number (76%) reported being interrupted during family time. The disruption wasn't limited to calls at home, either; over a third (36%) received cold calls at work.

The current law, according to the Information Commissioner's Office, states that a company can only be prosecuted for cold calling if it has been shown to be causing substantial damage or distress. The Government is now consulting on whether this threshold should be lowered to allow for additional prosecutions.

The consultation does not suggest any measures to deal with overseas calls, however, which is a major concern as over half (51%) of those surveyed received cold calls from international numbers in the past 12 months.

Knowing where to turn

Despite the significant volume of cold calls, there was confusion amongst respondents about where to turn to report unwanted communication. Two thirds (66%) of respondents said they weren't confident they knew where to report cold calls and 73% think the Government isn't doing enough to prevent cold calls. A further 95% of the UK public were not aware that specific numbers such as 7726 exist for reporting unsolicited text messages direct to network providers.

'Tricked into opting in'

As well as considerable consumer concern about cold calling, the research also found that almost a third (28%) of respondents felt they had been personally tricked into opting into receiving additional communications from companies via misleading tick boxes. A further 42% felt this system of ‘opt-ins’ could trick people.

Russell Atkinson, CEO of National Accident Helpline, said:

“Cold calls are a societal menace, and it is essential that more is done to reduce the disruptive effect they are having on people in the UK. As a company that never cold calls, National Accident Helpline is taking a strong stand against calls that are causing unacceptable levels of distress and interrupting precious private time.


“We will be sharing the findings of this research with the Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, to pressure the Government to speed up reform in this vital area. The current consultation on increasing powers to deal with cold calls does not go far enough and does not address the key issue of calls from overseas.

“Our research has clearly established that the public needs far more support to effectively reduce these nuisance calls. As part of our campaign, National Accident Helpline has produced a simple guide for consumers to help them navigate the process of reporting a cold call.”

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