I imagine most people have come across the problem, or at least know of it: the dreaded nuisance telephone call. We get around 4-6 each day to our BT landline, but very rarely to either of our mobiles, perhaps due to the higher cost of calling a mobile phone. We have caller ID, and some of the calls come from UK numbers, some simply say ‘UNAVAILABLE’ and a lot say ‘INTERNATIONAL’. Like most people we don’t want any of these calls, they are annoying, waste our time and interrupt us. PPI claims, “guaranteed” free boilers, personal injury claims, double glazing sales, fake computer support calls, loan sales, we get them all. Which? even has a campaign to highlight the problem.
When we moved to our current house we were given a recycled telephone number from BT. I understand this is very common, and it’s simply not feasible to give a brand new number to everyone when they move. The number we have is not the one the previous house owners’ had, and seems to have been owned by a Mr Hubbard who managed to get himself on every telesales list going. I have heard that in extreme cases BT will provide a new number, but it is likely to be recycled again and there is no guarantee it will solve the problem. Our number is ex-directory, but since it is already on a lot of lists that doesn’t make much difference, and I suspect some companies use auto-diallers that work their way through all possible numbers anyway.
So what can be done about the problem?
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) allows you to opt-out of unsolicited sales or marketing calls by registering your telephone number with the service. Organisations are then prohibited by law from calling you unless they have your consent. However, it seems to make very little difference. A lot of companies simply ignore the law and call anyway. It wouldn’t surprise me if some have done a cost/benefit and risk analysis to work out that the chances of being prosecuted are extremely slim and that the potential cost of an unlikely fine is outweighed by the money they make from doing it, so they continue their shoddy business practices anyway. Furthermore, a lot of the calls we receive are from outside the UK, in which case the law is unenforceable.
BT offers two services called Choose to Refuse and Anonymous Call Reject which aim to reduce the problem. However, Choose to Refuse only allows ten numbers to be blocked, does not block withheld numbers or international calls, and costs £3.15 per month. That’s a lot of money for not very much. Anonymous Call Reject will stop calls where the caller chooses to withhold their number, but will not block international calls, and costs £4.30 per month. Again, quite expensive. Since a lot of our calls come from international call centres, presumably to avoid UK laws or because it is cheaper, neither of these services would help and they are not exactly cheap.
Our telephone has a feature that lets us add nuisance numbers to a blocked list. When number on the blocked list calls our telephone doesn’t ring and the caller is cut off. There are some significant drawbacks to it that make it ineffective though: it can only hold 30 blocked numbers which is nowhere near enough, it can’t block international calls and it can’t blocked withheld numbers.
One product I have seen that sounds like it might be the magic bullet we’re looking for is the trueCall Call Blocker. It’s maker went on Dragons Den to get funding and succeeded. The TrueCall Call Blocker checks your calls before it lets your phone ring, asks unknown callers to identify themselves and then lets you decide whether to accept the call. It also lets you blacklist numbers so that they are automatically blocked in future, lets you block international calls, and lets you whitelist the numbers of people you know so that they can get straight through to you. It also has a built-in answering machine. What puts me off the TrueCall device is the price: it costs £99.99; at half that price I might be tempted, but a ton sounds like a lot of money especially since I don’t know how effective it would be without trying it.
How much of a problem to you find nuisance calls to be? What approaches do you use for avoiding nuisance calls?