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What else could you do with the time wasted on cold calls and spam emails?

Nuisance marketing is an issue which affects all of us, and National Accident Helpline is one of the most prominent voices working to stamp it out.  We've taken a stand by launching our Stop Nuisance Calls campaign and by founding the Ethical Marketing Charter to encourage best practice in our sector.

We wanted to find out just how much of people's valuable time is wasted every year by the nuisance marketers who make countless unwanted calls and fill our inboxes with junk emails and texts.

We commissioned new research which has revealed that as a nation we each waste two full working days a year - or a staggering six weeks across our adult lives - dealing with nuisance calls, texts and spam emails.

70% of people have been interupted whilst doing an important task infographic

The YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults revealed just how much disruption is caused by these unwanted interruptions to our already busy lives:

  • On average we waste over 15 hours a year as a result of dealing with nuisance calls, texts and emails
  • We waste almost 8 hours (7.72 hours) a year simply deleting spam emails, and over 5 hours (5.59 hours) through answering nuisance calls
  • 70% of us have been interrupted by a cold call whilst doing something important - with 48% being disrupted when spending time with family and 24% during a sensitive conversation
  • Respondents to the survey also reported being interrupted by a nuisance call during a funeral, whilst operating a chainsaw, when handling live wires and even while giving birth

Nuisance marketing has an even more significant impact on older people in society, with retired people wasting 387 hours (more than two weeks night and day)* of their precious retirement years dealing with nuisance marketing.

*Based on a 20-year retirement period.

UK economy loses £1.6bn every year graphic

The impact of nuisance marketing is not just felt in our personal lives. Our economy is also suffering as a result of this unwanted intrusion:

  • The average UK worker wastes 148.1 hours (that's more than six 24-hour days or almost 20 working days) during their working life dealing with nuisance marketing, and 40.6 hours (more than one working week) through nuisance calls alone.
  • Over £1.5bn (£1,684,049,560) - or 106,571,746 working hours - is lost each year as a result of people dealing with nuisance calls, texts and emails
  • £461,618 million - or 29,212,560 working hours - is lost to the economy each year through nuisance calls

As part of the research, we asked people to tell us how they would spend the time wasted on nuisance marketing if they were able to reclaim it. The vast majority of them simply wanted to spend more time with family and friends, take a well-earned break from their hectic schedule or enjoy a hobby without fear of being disrupted by nuisance calls and texts. Among the most popular responses were:

  • Spending time with family and loved ones
  • Relaxing and catching up on sleep
  • Working or studying
  • Reading
  • Gardening and walking
  • Watching TV

However, the survey demonstrated that many people would simply rather do anything than deal with nuisance marketing - with cage fighting and watching paint dry among the suggestions put forward. We're inviting you to share your ideas of what you'd like to do with the time wasted on nuisance calls using the hashtag #ReclaimMyTime.

We've outlined some brief tips for how to prevent and report nuisance calls below - but for more information check out our detailed advice on prevention and reporting.

1.    Register both your mobile number and your landline number for the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) by visiting or calling 0345 070 0707. The only official ‘do not call' register, the TPS is a free service that prevents over a third of nuisance calls from reaching consumers, and it is against the law for businesses or charities to call numbers registered with the service. Beware, however, that if you tick a marketing ‘opt-in' box that will override your TPS registration and you may still receive marketing.

2.    When registering for competitions or shopping online, take care when ticking marketing ‘opt-in' boxes which can often trick consumers into giving their consent for their data to be shared. You may be required to untick a box and also keep an eye out for phrases such as ‘tick here to opt-out'.

3.    Never give out personal details and information over the phone unless you are fully confident you know who you are speaking to. We also advise that you don't reply to any spam texts or emails you receive.

National Accident Helpline would encourage consumers to report any cold calls they receive, as this helps to ensure that regulators are able to take effective action against rogue firms.

  • If you have received a nuisance call (either from a real person or via a pre-recorded marketing message) a spam text or email, you can report it to the Information Commissioner's Office by phone (0303 123 113) or online.
  • If you have received a silent or abandoned call, you should report it to Ofcom by phone (0300 123 3333) or online.
  • You can also report spam texts directly to your network operators by forwarding the text for free to 7726.

If you receive a live cold call, we recommend asking the caller for the name of their company, their registered address and their telephone number - all of which will help regulators to investigate your complaint.

#ReclaimMyTime Competition

We gave you the opportunity to tell us what you would do if you were given the 15 hours you waste a year on cold calls and spam emails.

We asked you to send us a picture, holding a piece of paper with your chosen activity on it and our competition hashtag #ReclaimMyTime.

#ReclaimMyTime winner and runners up

You can also view the full list of shortlisted entries on our Pinterest board here.

WINNER: Suzanne Heath

Suzanne won the judges over with her ambitious plans for reclaiming her time. She said: "Give me back those 15 hours and I reckon I could master the art of photography". Hopefully Suzanne's prize will help her achieve that goal!

Suzanne Heath

Rick Haswell

Runner-up Rick said he would spend the extra time: "Shopping for up-to-date clothes… To address my fashion woes!" We loved Rick's pic but couldn't help but think he was already pretty stylish - don't you agree?

Rick Haswell

Angela Wilson

Angela said she'd use the time wasted on cold calls on: “A special day out with the grandchildren". We couldn't think of a lovelier idea.

Angela Wilson

Maggie Fawcett

Maggie said she would use the extra time she gained back to have a pamper session. We say: go for it Maggie - you deserve it!

Maggie Fawcett

Ben Alder

Ben told us he would spend more time painting with his son. We loved this idea as these two are clearly both very talented.

Ben Alder

Lisa Bailey

Lisa Bailey would spend her time taking her Nan out for tea and cake. Well Nan might be in for a treat now that Lisa's won one of our runner up prizes!

Lisa Bailey

Clair Dutton

Clair Dutton would use the 15 hours wasted on cold calls to spend time with the elderly during the festive season. This kind thought won Clair one of our runner up spots.

Clair Dutton

Bob Hilliar

Bob would use his extra time to volunteer at the local hospital. This is one of the best reasons we've heard to reduce the time we spend on cold calls.

Bob Hilliar

Leeonie Mignott

Leeonie Mignott would spend the time she gained back from cold calls learning a new skill. Leeonie would learn to drive!

Leeonie Mignott


Ellie said: “I've a novel idea - I'd #ReclaimMyTime by reading all the books I haven't had time to read”. How would you reclaim your time from cold calls?