How to complain about unwanted phone calls

Man Speaking On Mobile Phone

Marketing calls should never force you to avoid answering your own phone. The first thing you should do is contact the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), run by the Direct Marketing Association. The service is free and allows you to opt out of receiving marketing communications. It also prevents marketing calls from business development firms, charities, voluntary organisations and political parties. You can register your home and mobile numbers with the scheme.

Once you are registered, organisations are not allowed to call you unless you have given prior consent.  

Why not raise your complaint free via Resolver now?

Prior consent

When you sign up with new websites there are often two tick boxes – one for their terms and conditions and the other to receive communications from select partners. Do not tick this box. If you do, you are consenting to your data being sold to third party companies – this is considered prior consent.

Even though you may have opted out via the TPS you will still receive communications from companies that have your data via this process. This loophole is extremely unfair and the Government is now considering if this law should be changed. 

Silent phone calls

Silent calls are usually from an automated system in a contact centre. The system automatically dials phone numbers – if you answer, the system connects you to a member of staff in the contact centre. However, if no one in the contact centre is available the line will stay ominously silent. 

Any company that uses a system like this is obliged to publish their phone number.  Once you get off the call, you should ring 1471 to find out the number. Alternately, call your phone provider and request the caller’s phone number. You can then make a complaint through Resolver.

Automated sales calls

These are known as lead generation calls. These calls aim to capture your details – they'll then sell these on to a firm as a lead. Companies making these calls must have your permission to make these calls to you. If you have not given permission, you should contact the Information Commissioner's Office with as much information as possible. Call them on 0303 123 1113.

Making a complaint

If you are still receiving unwanted phone calls then you should make a complaint to the TPS.

  • When you receive the phone call ask the person what company they work for and their telephone number. Be sure to make a note of the number. Sometimes you can also obtain the phone number after finishing the call but prior to the next call by dialling 1471 on your home phone. 
  • Contact the Telephone Preference Service to make an official complaint. 

The Telephone Preference Service cannot help with unwanted text messages. Forward unwanted texts to 7726 and these will register as unwanted text messages with your mobile provider. 

Top tips for the phone

  • If you receive a phone call requesting any financial details or PIN numbers stating that they are checking your details, we strongly recommend that you refuse to divulge any information.
  • Talk to your home or mobile phone provider about what options they have to deal with nuisance calls to resolve these issues. On most newer mobile phone models you can choose to block a phone number. 
  • You can also obtain phone call identification but you will need to pay an additional charge for this service. You will be able to see the incoming call number. 
  • Get your phone number listed as ex-directory by contacting your phone provider. Your details will not be published anywhere. 

Harassing phone calls 

If you are receiving rude or harassing phone calls then you should contact your phone provider for assistance and to investigate the issue. These calls are a criminal offence and will therefore be taken very seriously by your phone provider. You can contact your phone provider on one of the following numbers:

  • BT 0800 661 441
  • Carphone Warehouse & Talk Talk 0870 444 1820
  • Post Office 0845 600 3210 
  • Sky 08442 414 141
  • Tiscali 0871 222 3311
  • Tesco 0845 300 7080
  • Virgin Media 0800 953 3333
If you are extremely concerned then contact the Police on 101 and they can trace the phone call.

What are the problems with the Telephone Preference Service?

The issue with this arrangement is that even though the TPS is theoretically enforced by law in the UK, there are many loopholes and problems:

  • There is no control restricting calls that originate from outside the UK
  • If you’ve filled in a web form at any time by ticking a box that allows a company to contact you for marketing purposes they have your details
  • A company of which you are a customer can legitimately call you
  • Calls claiming to be for market research purposes are also technically permitted
  • Many companies are reported to simply flout the rules and ignore the list of TPS subscribers.

Information Commissioner's Office 

One of the major difficulties with unsolicited nuisance calls is that companies looking for short-term sales leads will often disguise their identity or refuse to disclose contact details. If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to log your nuisance call complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office .

This is the body responsible for enforcing TPS rules, and it will do its best to investigate the source of your nuisance call.

Of course, if you know the name of the company that you want to make a TPS complaint about, then you can use Resolver to help you get your complaint heard.

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