For well over a year now we’ve been subjected to an endless torrent of landline phone spam, and with BT shrugging its shoulders over our growing complaints, we’re getting increasingly frustrated. And angry.
The calls first started up about three years ago, when we’d get the occasional crackly international call from someone with a dreadful grasp of English professing to be based in London and calling themselves ‘Roger’ or ‘John.’
Usually starting with a spectacular mispronunciation of the name on the BT contract, the poor sod in a faraway land would be tasked with trying to entice us into a getting a ‘cheaper’ mobile contract or some other unwanted offer. It was annoying, but at least you could have the satisfaction of politely saying, “go away please” to a human being.
About two years ago, the curse of the UK pre-recorded calls started up. Almost all of these calls came from a large range of numbers starting with 083** or 084** prefixes, and usually took the form of a recording offering insurance services, loans, compensation and personal injury claims in the UK.
The Guardian reported on the growing menace of these calls last month:
Complaints about unwanted marketing calls have trebled to almost 10,000 a month since the beginning of 2012 thanks to a huge surge in activity by PPI and accident claim firms.
Telecoms watchdog Ofcom said that in July alone 9,803 complaints about unsolicited marketing calls were registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the official central opt-out register on which householders can record their preference not to receive such calls. This compares with 3,212 complaints in December 2011.
“The problem [with such calls] is a growing issue and can be partly attributed to an increase in the aggressive marketing practices of PPI and accident claims firms,” said an Ofcom spokeswoman.
Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
The first port of call to stopping these calls is the Telephone Preference Service, but we’d already registered with them years ago – several times, in fact.
With the calls increasing in number – up to 5 or 6 a day, sometimes more – and the TPS service apparently impotent, we called BT and asked them to help. Their answer was – in a nutshell – ‘not our problem, guv.’
We asked if we could just block all numbers starting with 083** or 084** because we don’t want to receive them, thanks very much.
After all, it takes seconds on our mobile phones to block numbers, so surely BT will be able to flick a switch and all our spam troubles would be over, right? Wrong.
It turns out that the only applicable services they offer are Anonymous Call Reject and Choose to Refuse and they’re both practically useless.
The former is a waste of time because the vast majority of these calls aren’t anonymous, and the latter is equally useless because it only allows you to block up to ten numbers – so you’d soon be out of your allocation because the spammers use a huge variety of numbers.
To add insult to injury, BT insist on charging you a hefty £4.30/month for the Anonymous Call Reject option and £3.55 /month for the Choose to Refuse service.
Heavens knows how they can justify such large monthly sums for what can’t be much more than a few keyboard prods at their end.
Goodbye old number
So, faced with no prospect of ending these marketing calls, we took the reluctant decision to change the phone number which we’d be using for over 15 years. This was no small decision and we’d recently bought a load of stationery with the old number printed on.
So we called BT, sorted out a new number, immediately registered it with the TPS and made sure it was ex-directory. And that, we hoped, would finally bring about peace at last.
The next day, the phone number swapped over effortlessly, and guess what the first call was? Yep, another marketing shyster calling from 08434 101857 with the usual unwanted pre-recorded drivel.
Furious, we got onto BT again asking what the hell was going on. How could they have our number already when the line had only been on about 30 minutes?
It turns out that BT recycle numbers so there’s a chance that the old number may not have been on the TPS (surely BT could have checked this?), and the new TPS protection won’t kick in for 28 days. Assuming it works better than the last time, of course.
So, right now, we’ve got the same amount of annoying telephone spam with the added bonus of having to pay out to get our stationery printed for the new number. Thanks BT.
How do we fix this?
We’re rapidly reaching the point where we’re looking at abandoning our landline altogether now.
BT seem unable/unwilling to help beleaguered customers and with no way to swiftly block numbers, the spam looks likely to increase, no matter how many times we change numbers.
There are, of course, commercial products for slamming these calls into oblivion – TrueCall – The Nuisance Call Blocker is an effective option, but pricey at £95 – and surely, as BT paying customers, the company should be doing more to help?
Is there hope?
Possibly, in the form of an early day motion proposed in May 2012:
Early Day Motion 90: Nuisance Calls
That this House recognises that the legislation around cold-calling via people’s home and mobile phones is confusing and overly complicated; believes that people should be able to guarantee their privacy in a simple and effective way; further believes that unwanted faxes, mail, telephone calls or texts are a nuisance and can be very intimidating to people, especially vulnerable individuals; notes that the present situation where responsibility lies with Ofcom, the Information Commissioner and various preferencing services gives unscrupulous companies the ability to ride roughshod over the regulations with very little chance of any charges being pursued; and calls on the Government to work with Ofcom and the Information Commissioner to strengthen the rules and apply them more rigorously.
You can see who has supported this motion on the Parliament website Early Day Motion 90
We won’t be holding out breath on this one, but if you find yourself in a similar predicament to us, perhaps these links below will be useful. It might also be worth contacting your MP.
As for us, we’ve reached the point where we just leave the phone off all day now, whic rather begs the question: “why are we paying for this?”
Complain to Ofcom
Ofcom Advisory Team – 0300 123 3333
BT Nuisance Call Advice Line – 0800 661 441
Carphone Warehouse/Talk Talk – 0870 444 1820
Kingston Communications – 01482 602 555
Post Office – 0845 600 3210
Sky – 08442 414 141
Tiscali – 0871 222 3311
Tesco – 0845 300 7080
Virgin Media’s Sensitive Information Bureau – 0800 953 3333