What's on

Unwanted sales calls and text messages - what are your rights?

publication date: Sep 4, 2012
author/source: Dean Dunham
Dean Dunham, the People's LawyerWith claims management companies on the increase and other forms of business realising that they can get their sales message directly in front of consumers by targeting phones and other electronic devices, unsolicited phone calls, text messages and emails are on the increase. In fact it has been reported that a number as high as one in three mobile phone users has received an unsolicited phone call or text. So what can you do about this?

1.     Unwanted phone calls

If you want to stop sales calls you can register your details with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This is an organisation that keeps a register on behalf of OFCOM (the regulator). To register log on to http://www.tpsonline.org.uk

After you have registered with TPS there is a 28 day registration period following which time a ban comes into effect that forbids any company from cold-calling your phone number. If you continue to receive phone calls after you have registered with TPS you should notify TPS and make a complaint to The Information Commissioner's Office, who are responsible for taking enforcement action where a company makes marketing calls to a person who is registered with the TPS and has not given prior consent to receive such calls. The more complaints that they get the more likely they are to take positive action to deal with this problem.

2.     Silent (abandoned) phone calls

These are calls where there is no one at the end of the phone when you answer. These are particularly frustrating but also can be a cause for concern, especially for elderly and other vulnerable people.

Under Ofcom's rules the number of abandoned calls companies make to consumers each day is not allowed to exceed three per cent of the total live calls made on that day. In April Ofcom fined home insurance and repairs company HomeServe £750,000 for making excessive numbers of silent and abandoned calls. Ofcom was clearly hoping  that this would send a message to the industry that these type of calls were unacceptable. However, it does not appear to have worked. If you receive such a call complain to Ofcom as they clearly need to take more serious action but will not do so unless the level of complaints increases.

3.     Unwanted text messages

Unfortunately TPS does not deal with unsolicited text messages and there is no equivalent organisation that you can register with. The only thing that you can is to ask the company that sends you the text message to remove you from their database and if they fail to do so report them to the Information Commissioner's Office.

If the text message is sent without the sender identifying themselves and you have not asked for the text it is illegal under Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and with this being the case the Information Commissioner's Office should take action.

4.     Do's and Don'ts

Unless you are sure that you want to use the service advertised never respond to an unsolicited text message, not even to say STOP. If you respond it will highlight the fact that your number is correct and in use which will be valuable to them.

Never give out any personal details over the phone or via text to any of these companies.

If the call or text was not prompted by you, complain.

Remember, whenever you give out your mobile/home phone number or email address to a business it is likely that it will end up being sold and therefore included on marketing databases. Only give this information out if you really need to and when you do insist that you opt out of your details being passed to third parties.

For further information on this or any other consumer or legal matter visit Dean's website.