Nuisance Calls & SMS: Joint Action Plan Update

Regulatory /

This month saw Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) publish an update on their joint action plan to tackle nuisance calls and text messages.

The action plan has been regularly updated since its creation in January 2013 and each update includes plans and priorities for the coming year and details of the progress made during the previous year.

What does the ICO do?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for enforcing the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR), these are the regulations which give people privacy rights in relation to any form of electronic communications.

Highlights for 2018

Results for 2018 are positive and show an overall reduction of nuisance calls and the introduction of new legislation and technical advances, here’s a summary:

Punishing those responsible

In 2018, the ICO maintained its focus on unsolicited direct marketing and made full use of its regulatory powers including:

• 23 fines issued totalling £3.1 million
• Single largest fine was £350,000
• Nine enforcement notices threatening criminal prosecution
• Issued a search and seizure warrant against a company in Glasgow
• Provided technical expertise to help identify equipment and documents used for unsolicited marketing communications

We think one of the biggest triumphs for the ICO last year was the change in legislation which made company directors personally liable should their company target people with unsolicited phone calls or text messages; the ICO is now able to issue a fine of up to £500,000 to senior officers and directors should they be in breach of regulations.

New rules to protect consumers

Ofcom strengthened some existing rules and introduced new rules to improve consumer protections against nuisance calls including:

• Banning the sale of Caller Display presentation services by phone companies and communication providers, this service must be provided free of charge
• Telephone numbers that are presented to people receiving calls must be a valid phone number, and the number must accept incoming calls so people can call it back
• Communication providers are now required to identify and block calls presenting invalid numbers, which is a major source of nuisance calls
• Ofcom is now able to reclaim blocks of telephone numbers from communications providers if they are found in breach of regulations

Results for 2018

Results for 2018 show an overall reduction of nuisance calls:

• 41% decrease for adults with a landline receiving any type of nuisance call (from July 2015 to January 2019)
• 29% decrease for adults with a mobile receiving any type of nuisance call (from July 2015 to January 2019)
• Adults with a landline phone and/or mobile phone, who received a nuisance call on their landline telephone and/or mobile phone fell to less than 50% for the first time in the last two years

What can you do about nuisance calls and messages?

Nuisance calls and messages come in different shapes and sizes and can be inconvenient and annoying at the best of times. But for more vulnerable people, they can also cause anxiety and distress.

If you're tired and fed up of receiving these types of calls and messages, there is something you can do about it.

Ofcom has put together a great series of guides which explain the different types of nuisance calls and messages, with advice on how to protect yourself against unwanted calls and messages. We recommend that you click on the link and take a look.

Paul Bell