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Rogue traders are “exploiting the problems they claim to solve”

5 September 2015

Increasing numbers of people are having problems with companies cold calling them to offer services that are supposed to block cold calls, Citizens Advice reveals.

People have complained of aggressive selling, faulty goods and being unable to cancel contracts after being contacted by companies claiming to offer cold call blocking devices.

In the last year the charity dealt with 72 per cent increase in the number of cases relating to the ‘bogus selling’ of cold call blocking services.

Cold call blocking devices essentially allow the owner to screen calls and decide which ones they will accept. Citizens Advice finds some companies are cold calling people to offer call blocking services.  

Evidence from the charity reveals people are complaining about receiving nuisance calls from blocking companies despite registering for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) - which means they should not receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

The calls may be coming from abroad or could be a result of UK companies deliberately ignoring the law which requires them to check if people are on the TPS list before phoning.

Some people have complained about cold call fraudsters misleading them into believing their friends and family have already purchased the blocking devices, while others report callers falsely claiming to be from the TPS, or to be working with the Government or Trading Standards.

The research also finds people are still harassed even after they have bought a cold call blocker.

Last year Citizens Advice estimates that it has helped people with 2,500 call blocking service issues overall. The charity is calling on the ICO and Trading Standards to continue to clamp down on companies that harass and mislead customers, often offering substandard cold call blockers.

The charity adds that legitimate companies offering blockers do not cold call.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Rogue traders are exploiting the problems they claim to solve.

“Citizens Advice helps increasing numbers of people with nuisance calls from services claiming to fight cold callers.

“In some cases people have been bullied into buying blocking devices while others have been charged an upfront annual fee instead of the monthly instalments they had been expecting to pay.

“The ICO should continue to take enforcement action against cold call companies that flout the law. Trading Standards need to take enforcement action against companies using aggressive and misleading sales tactics, which can force people into buying a product that either doesn’t work or that they don’t want.”

In many cases people have turned to Citizens Advice when they discover money has been taken out of their accounts from call blocking services without their permission. In these cases customers were assured the cold call blocking service would cost just £2 a month for five years but once signed up, the money for the entire contract was debited from their account.

In August this year Stop The Calls, a company which offered a nuisance call blocking service was fined £50,000 by the Information Commissioner's Office.  They found that the company had called people registered with the TPS, made repeated calls, sometimes several on the same day, and ignored requests by people to stop calling.

Citizens Advice says some companies offer a legitimate and often valuable service that eases problems with cold calling without pestering people over the phone but is concerned ‘rogue’ outfits are exploiting the market.

If people find they are being harassed by cold call blocking technology companies, they can:

  • Register their number with the Telephone Preference Service www.tpsonline.org.uk, 0845 070 0707.

  • Report unsolicited marketing calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office https://ico.org.uk/concerns/marketing, 0303 123 1113.

  • If you still have need any further support you can visit your local Citizens Advice or contact the consumer help line on 03454 04 05 06.

Notes to editors

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.

  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.

  3. To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit citizensadvice.org.uk.

  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.

  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends.

  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.