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How do I stop unwanted phone calls?

Stop unwatned phone calls
Cold call: put the ambulance chasers on hold

Barely a day passes without at least one call to my mobile phone with someone claiming that they’ve heard I’ve been involved in a rather vaguely worded ‘accident’. They promise to take me off their database but then I get the same call on another day, albeit from a different phone number and company.

Well, help is, kind of, at hand.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is an opt-out register, where individuals can register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls. It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS. It’s free, easy to use, can be used for both mobile and landline numbers and you only need to register each number once.

How does the TPS stop unwanted phone calls?

This is the important bit.

The legislation only covers businesses in the UK, however this does include UK businesses who employ overseas marketing companies to cold-call. It also only includes ‘live’ conversations – not pre-recorded or silent phone calls.

For pre-recorded phone nuisance, this has to be reported to The Information Commissioner’s Office (The ICO) and silent calls to Ofcom. Yeah, it’s a pain.

How to register

  • Head to the TPS website and select the ‘Make a Complaint‘ option
  • Select what purpose the phone is used for (if it’s a business phone, different rules apply)
  • Now you enter the telephone numbers that you wish to register
  • On the next screen, you provide your postcode, followed by a drop-down for you to select your specific address
  • The next few screens are the usual marketing questions – why you’re using the service and how you heard about them
  • Finally, you provide them with an email address and your name and, that’s it, your numbers are registered

Give it 28 days and, after that, UK businesses should not cold-call you. Theoretically.

I still got called! I want to complain

You can do this via the TPS website. Here’s a quick summary of when you can complain:

  • Your phone number has been registered with TPS for more than 28 days
  • You had a ‘live’ conversation with someone attempting to sell/market their products/services to you
  • The call was not arranged (i.e. it was truly a ‘cold call’)
  • If it was from a UK number OR it was from an international number but they were ringing on behalf of a UK business

It’s best to get as much information from the call as possible – the number that called you, the name of the company, and the reason for ringing is pretty much the minimum required. Oh, and TPS will pass some of your information onto the company that you raise the complaint with, which is a slight concern in itself.

They’ve got apps!

Who hasn’t these days? The TPS has Android and Apple apps available to make it easy to look up, block and report phone numbers. They’re not brilliant but for free it’s hard to argue too much.

Alternative measures

Although registering with the TPS can do no harm, its efficacy is questionable, especially when dealing with the rogue ambulance chasers. Technology might prove a more effective filter. Handset manufacturers are beginning to get wise to this nuisance. The phone app on Samsung handsets, for example, displays when a caller is suspected to be a marketer or nuisance caller, letting you reject the call without wasting any more of your time. Google’s own handsets do likewise.

If your Android phone doesn’t offer that automatically, a third-party dialler such as TrueCaller will do the job. It also displays the identity of unknown callers by using a phone book generated from other users. The downside is your contacts’ names and numbers will be sucked into the TrueCaller database, which is a potential hack waiting to happen. A hack that might be used to gather numbers for cold calling…

Main image credit: Bryce Johnson/Flickr


About the author

David Artiss

Works for Automattic Inc., the company behind and Tumblr. Tech geek, international speaker and occasional PC Pro podcaster. Lover of Lego and video games.

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