Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Fighting the War Against Nuisance Callers and Spammers
You and your family are just sitting down to a meal at the end of a long day when the telephone rings. You reluctantly pick it up only to be greeted by someone on the other end purporting to represent your local utility who, out of sheer generosity, wants to offer you a brand-new boiler. You are disgusted to have once again been disturbed in your own home during what should be precious family / personal time, by a nuisance caller who has no regard for the law.
These are the kinds of things the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) deals with all the time on behalf of consumers. They look at all complaints that come into their office by way of their website, working diligently to find and punish violators. What they do does not necessarily constitute exciting data centre or cloud computing news, but we felt it necessary to highlight how the ICO is working to protect all of us and, more importantly, how all companies should conduct themselves when selling to consumers.
The ICO is working harder than ever to protect us. They are teaming up with regulators and other government agencies in order to track down and hold violators responsible for constant harassment of consumers. For example, in 2015, they worked with Gateshead Trading Standards to go after E-Green Energy for those deceptive phone calls offering free boilers. The court eventually fined the company £8,000; three directors of the company each received fines of £6,000.
In another case that settled this past November (2015), the courts fined a company known as Direct Security Marketing Ltd nearly £1,200 for failing to register with the ICO as required by law. The ICO added £70,000 in fines for making automated 'robo calls'.
All Communications Protected
What the ICO wants consumers to know is that all communications between businesses and private consumers are protected. Consumers have the right not to be contacted by unsolicited marketers, whether this is by telephone or e-mail. Better yet, marketers cannot claim automation to get around the law. Regulations apply equally to communications made in person or using computer systems and software.
Depending on the success of the marketer, unsolicited cold calls can yield a success rate of between 5% and 10%. This means that for every 100 phone calls made, a good marketer should be able to secure between five and 10 paying customers. That is more than enough to pay for marketing services and still make a profit.
Cold callers and e-mail spammers tend to use sensationalism to get consumers to at least listen to what they have to say. Once the conversation begins, the marketer resorts to hard-sell tactics that a lot of people find difficult to resist.
The people making these calls cause upset, alarm and distress and, at worst, they prey on vulnerable people who may fall victim to a hard sell or scam that leaves them embarrassed and out of pocket.
What We Can Do To Help
Last year, 166,665 people were driven to complain to the ICO because they’d had enough of unsolicited cold calls.
The ICO is doing excellent work in trying to shut down nuisance callers and spammers. We can all do our bit by reporting every nuisance contact that we receive in our homes.
The first thing everyone should do it register their home telephone number with the Telephone Preference Service here.
If you are still receiving unwelcome calls, emails or SMS messages in your home, you should report them to the ICO here.