My position on this issue is clear: nuisance calls are totally unacceptable. At best they are an irritation and an unwanted intrusion, at worst they cause real distress and fear, particularly to those who are elderly, vulnerable or housebound. To tackle this problem you can register with the Telephone Preference Service. This is the first step in reducing unsolicited sales and marketing calls.
A Nuisance Calls Action Plan has been published, setting out new measures being taken by government, regulators, consumer groups and industry to tackle nuisance calls. Following a consultation on lowering the threshold for when the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) can fine companies, the Government has removed the legal threshold that the ICO must prove a company caused 'substantial damage or distress'. This will make it easier for firms responsible for these nuisance calls to be hit with fines of up to £500,000. The Government has also confirmed it is looking at measures which will hold board level executives responsible for nuisance calls and texts.
In the 2015 Budget, the Government also announced a £3.5 million package to explore ways of protecting vulnerable people from nuisance calls. This will include trialling the development and provision of innovative call blocking technology, research, and a campaign to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.
The Action Plan also included proposals to enable Ofcom and the ICO to share information with greater ease. I am pleased to say that this measure became effective in July 2014 and will help in the ICO's efforts to take more enforcement action against companies that deliberately continue to break the rules. New rules introduced by the Ministry of Justice ensure that these companies will also face fines up to 20 per cent of their annual turnover.
The Government has also announced recently that from May 2016 all direct marketing companies registered in the UK will need to display their phone numbers when making unsolicited phone calls - even if their call centres are based abroad. This move follows positive backing in a public consultation and extensive work with regulators, industry, and consumer groups.