UK regulators have been forced to admit that the war on rogue telemarketers – which has included millions of pounds in fines, a raft of new legislation and increased powers – has failed to make a significant dent in the “scourge of nuisance calls”.
The admission comes in the latest update on the Joint Action Plan to tackle nuisance calls and texts from the Information Commissioner’s Office and Ofcom.
While the regulators insist there has been an overall reduction since the peak of 2015, last year the ICO received 124,363 complaints about nuisance calls under the PECR legislation, a year-on-year decrease of just 3% from 127,623 complaints in 2017.
And since the introduction of GDPR and the bans on claims management and pensions related cold-calling, there have been large increases in reported concerns (+45% and +63% respectively).
Meanwhile, Ofcom received 32,019 complaints about silent and abandoned calls last year, down just 3.65% from 33,189 complaints in 2017.
According to Ofcom, Britons receive 4.8 billion nuisance calls each year, 1.7 billion live sales calls, 1.5 billion silent calls, 940 million recorded sales messages, and 200 million abandoned calls. There is no evidence to suggest that these numbers have declined.
The lack of a real breakthrough in the reduction of rogue calls comes despite a raft of measures, including increased powers for the ICO which have triggered fines totalling nearly £7m, the introduction of penalties of up to £500,000 for directors of rogue telemarketing firms, and cold calling bans on pensions and from claims management firms.
And, last month, the ICO revealed its actions have now resulted in 16 company directors being banned from running a business for a total of more than 100 years.
One industry source said: “It appears that despite the best intentions of both the ICO and Ofcom, the crackdown has barely scratched the surface and we have long argued that introducing bans on cold calling would have the negative effect of creating more nuisance calls, not less.
“The net might be closing in on UK firms, but what exactly are the regulators doing to stop calls coming from overseas companies? They could be easily blocked by telecoms firms but, of course, that would cut off one of their revenue streams…”
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