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Complaints about nuisance calls tripled in two years

Nuisance calls in the UK have been growing at an alarming rate and the regulations designed to protect consumers from them are failing to halt the rise, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The report, part of the LSE Media Policy Project, examined official complaints mechanisms and public surveys about nuisance calls. It found that while the costs to offending companies for making such calls is dropping, the negative impact on society, the economy and individuals is increasing.

phone receiverComparing regulator data, the report shows that complaints to both Ofcom and the Telephone Preference Service more than tripled in between April 2011 and April 2013. While some forms of “cold” or unsolicited calls are legal, the data also indicates that illegal forms of nuisance communication, such as excessive automated calls or unsolicited text messages make up a significant part of the problem. 

Claire Milne, Visiting Senior Fellow in the LSE Department of Media and Communications, and the report’s author, said:

“The elderly and disabled may suffer more than the average person because they are more likely to be at home and may have difficulty reaching the phone or be susceptible to those calls that are forms of fraud.”

The report also points to the severe challenges for those institutions charged with enforcing the laws on telemarketing, namely Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, citing a lack of sufficient resources and rules about initiating investigations and gathering evidence.

Milne added, “The enforcement rules seem to have been designed to gently guide errant businesses back to better behaviour, rather than to reduce problems for consumers.”

Milne makes several recommendations for changes in the regulation of nuisance calls. These include reducing the burden of proof for enforcers; increasing coordination among enforcers through a single central point; creating a single, easy online complaints mechanism, and ensuring calling line identification on all commercial calls.

The report will be submitted to House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport for their inquiry on nuisance calls and texts, and to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuisance Calls, formed on Monday 15 July in response to the call for evidence on the issue. The report is available on the blog of the LSE Media Policy Project.

The Media Policy Project is based in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It aims to establish a deliberative relationship between policy makers, civil society actors, media professionals and relevant media research.

For more information or enquiries please contact: Sally Broughton-Micova on 020 3486 2834 or email s.e.broughton-micova@lse.ac.uk

18 July 2013