Concerns grow as nuisance call gripes hit four-year high

phone 414Fears are growing over a return to the bad old days of nuisance call bombardment with official figures showing consumer complaints about telemarketing activity have hit a four-year high as rogues continue to exploit the pandemic.

According to figures from the Information Commissioner’s Office, in January and February there were a total of 25,575 complaints made about breaches of the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) covering live calls, automated calls and SMS.

This is the highest figure since 2017, when there were a total of 31,774 during the same period; in 2018 it was 15,067, in 2019 it hit 22,742 and in 2020 there were 17,370 complaints.

Last month, the ICO warned that a third (33%) of last year’s complaints did not fit into any of the established categories, leading the regulator to suggest they are the result of nuisance contact relating to Covid-19.

The 2021 figures show this has now risen to 40% of all calls although the ICO is due to add a specific coronavirus category to enable easier complaint review.

The next complained about areas are the old rogues favourites of accident claims, broadband, and energy saving and home improvements.

However, despite this rise in activity, there is not a single company on the ICO’s “watch list”, which details companies that are at risk of enforcement action. Only one firm, Media Blanket, is listed as being in the second category of those facing possible action.

Last month, Decision Marketing reported that there had been a fresh surge in nuisance calls targeting the over 70s with pandemic scams around swab tests and vaccines.

While official figures revealed a 20% reduction in complaints about nuisance calls for the year to December 31 2020, mainly due to the first lockdown, the ICO predicted complaint levels would not fall again for the foreseeable future.

In response to concerns that the Telephone Preference Service was failing to block enough nuisance calls, TPS director of policy and compliance at the DMA John Mitchison recently told Decision Marketing: “Over the past five years, the total number of complaints received by the TPS has fallen from 89,000 in 2016 to 18,000 in 2020, which shows progress is being made.

“However, the TPS cannot stop every rogue call so the public must remain vigilant. If someone does receive a nuisance call, it is essential to the empowerment of services like the TPS that people not only register but also complain. The more people who do, the greater number of organisations that will be held accountable to the laws in place to protect consumers.”

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