Ofcom, the UK's Communications regulator, has introduced new rules to prevent people from receiving unwanted calls which come into effect on the 1st of October 2018.
Most people that live in the UK have experienced these nuisance calls, they are potentially harmful, and these new rules are designed to help better protect people and to ensure that vulnerable people are treated fairly.
We welcome these new rules, although, in our opinion, they are long overdue and there is much more that can be done to eliminate nuisance calls, but this is a good start anyway.
Why have the rules changed?
Unfortunately, most people are familiar with unwanted calls; they range from simple unsolicited sales calls, to calls using sophisticated IVR’s and speech recognition technology asking you about an accident or PPI claim, they all have one thing in common; they are a nuisance, and in some cases, they can be harmful.
The General Conditions – the regulatory rules that all communications providers must follow to operate in the UK - needed to be reviewed to ensure that consumers have the protection they need against sharp practices, and to support Ofcom’s enforcement work.
The updated rules put more pressure and stricter requirements on all UK communications providers in regards to nuisance calls, complaints handling and the protection of vulnerable people.
What are the new rules?
In summary, the new rules will:
Help to better protect consumers
- Phone companies will be banned from charging customers for caller display, a service which helps people to screen unwanted calls;
- Telephone numbers displayed to people receiving calls must be valid and allow a person to call the number back;
- Phone companies must take steps to identify and block calls which carry invalid numbers – a feature of many nuisance calls – so they don’t get through to consumers in the first place; and
- Ofcom will be able to take back blocks of numbers from communications providers if they are found to have been systematically used to cause harm or anxiety to people, such as to make nuisance calls or perpetrate scams or fraud.
Require telecoms companies to treat vulnerable customers fairly
- Communications providers must introduce policies for identifying vulnerable customers – such as people with learning or communication difficulties or those suffering physical or mental illness or bereavement – to ensure they are treated fairly.
Help ensure that complaints and customer requests are handled appropriately.
- All communications providers must ensure that customer concerns are dealt with promptly and effectively;
- Customers must be kept informed about the progress of their complaint and be allowed faster access to dispute resolution services in cases where the matter cannot be resolved by their provider; and
- Ofcom is issuing new guidance to providers on handling customers’ requests to cancel their contract. This should include allowing customers to cancel by phone, email or web chat, and ensuring incentive schemes for customer service agents do not encourage poor behaviour.
We welcome any attempt to stamp out unsolicited nuisance calls.
As a regulated communications provider, we take our role and responsibilities very seriously, and already have systems and controls in place to stop nuisance calls from originating on our network, or from one of our customers.
A lot of these calls are originating from outside the UK, and that presents a whole new set of problems and challenges, but one step at a time.
If all communication providers do the right thing and adhere to these new rules, and Ofcom can successfully punish companies responsible for nuisance calls, then we should see an improvement, how long that will last, only time will tell.