Research shows more must be done
Where to turn
National Accident Helpline commissioned a nationwide survey on the UK’s attitude to cold calling and spam texting. Our research revealed that people in the UK are plagued by millions of nuisance calls every year. Despite so many people being affected, two thirds said they weren’t confident about where to report cold calls. Only 5% of the UK public were aware of the 7726 number which you can text (free of charge) to your network provider to immediately report spam texts.
Tricked into 'opting-in'
Our consumer research also revealed that 70% of the UK public believe that the current tick box system to ‘opt-in’ or out of receiving marketing communications does not work. 42% of people felt this system of ‘opt-ins’ could trick people and a further 28% of people felt they themselves had been tricked into such ‘opt-ins’, via misleading tick boxes.
National Accident Helpline’s law firms are anti-cold calling
During government consultation in 2014 on the steps it should take to strengthen the law against nuisance marketing, a survey on the issue was conducted among National Accident Helpline’s national panel of law firms. The overwhelming majority supported the introduction of a lower legal threshold for the prosecution of firms who make cold calls. Our panel also firmly believe that stronger action needs to be taken against solicitors who use nuisance call tactics to attract customers, a practice which is specifically prohibited in their Code of Conduct. 97% of firms surveyed believe that the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA) should take disciplinary action against offending law firms, including the issuing of significant fines and repeat offenders being closed down.
Government must continue its work to halt tide of intrusive calls
In February 2015, following consultation, the government announced a crackdown on nuisance calling, with the ICO granted greater powers to impose fines on companies making cold calls. Previously, the ICO had to prove that companies had caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’ in order to pursue a prosecution. This will no longer be the case, making it much easier to prosecute offenders. The government also pledged a £3.5m fund to explore ways to protect people from nuisance calls, including the trial and development of innovative call blocking technology, along with additional research and the launch of a campaign aimed at raising awareness of how consumers can reduce and report nuisance calls. National Accident Helpline welcomes these measures as a major step forward in tackling nuisance calls which originate in the UK. However, the measures announced did not include any progress on dealing with overseas calls. This is a major concern as over half (51%) of the UK public received cold calls from international numbers in the past 12 months.
National Accident Helpline is calling on the government to continue its work to stamp out nuisance marketing by responding to our 3-Step Action Plan:
Our 3-step plan
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.
National Accident Helpline calls for a centralised website, helpline and phone app to report complaints. This would facilitate information sharing and reduce costs in the long term. National Accident Helpline would support legislation which enabled appropriate information sharing between Ofcom, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and other governmental organisations such as the Claims Management Regulator (CMR). In addition, National Accident Helpline welcomes the lowering of the legal threshold for ICO enforcement action which came into effect in April 2015, but emphasises the requirement to commit sufficient resources for effective enforcement.
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.
This is a challenging area; however, it is the source of many cold calls. NAH notes that Ofcom and the ICO have linked up with regulators from Australia, Canada and the USA, to tackle the issue this poses for their countries. According to NAH’s own complaints log, a significant proportion of nuisance calls appear to come from call centres in the Indian sub-continent – this should be addressed. NAH believes it is vital to cut demand at the UK source for customer leads generated in this way. The government, in particular regulators such as the Claims Management Regulator (CMR) and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), should intervene in this country to stop companies profiting from information derived from these international cold calls.
Simple, clearer and clearly demarcated ‘opt-ins’ to email marketing or calls that don’t trick consumers.
All 'opt-ins' should be compliant with the Privacy Electronic Communications Regulations. The Which? taskforce is considering recommendations for a standard opt-in wording for consumer consent. NAH supports 'best practice guidance', as the current mix of opt-ins/opt-outs, along with unclear wordings, means consumers can inadvertently consent to marketing calls, texts and emails that they didn’t want.
Read National Accident Helpline's response to the government consultation on lowering the cold-calling prosecution threshold.
Industry leaders demonstrating commitment to ethical marketing
As part of our ongoing campaign to stamp out nuisance calls, National Accident Helpline has worked with industry leaders to found an Ethical Marketing Charter. The Charter exists to encourage professional, ethical organisations in the personal injury sector to affirm their commitment to ethical marketing practices and to challenge others in the sector to follow best practice.
Signatories to the charter adhere to the following commitments:
- Charter signatories stand firmly against nuisance marketing – they never cold call or send spam texts or spam emails.
- Charter signatories stand firmly against the unethical buying and selling of accident data – they never misuse accident data to pressure people into making a claim.
- Charter signatories stand firmly against inappropriate and misleading advertising – they never induce personal injury claims by making false or misleading promises in their advertising, and are clear and upfront about any exclusions to no win, no fee.
For more information visit the independent Ethical Marketing Charter website.