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Cold callers to display phone numbers in government crackdown

4th May 2016

Baroness Neville Rolfe, the minister responsible for data protection, has confirmed that 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 means that cold callers will no longer be able to hide or disguise their phone numbers.

The move follows news that a substantial number of fines totalling £895,000 have been issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

In 2015, the government made it easier to fine cold callers by removing the need for consumers to prove that unwanted marketing calls caused distress and damage.

Companies can risk fines of up to £2m from Ofcom and a further £500,000 from the ICO if they continue to bombard consumers with unwanted calls.

“Nuisance calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant harm to elderly and vulnerable members of society,” said Baroness Rolfe. “Government is committed to tackling this problem, which is why we are making it easier for consumers to report companies by forcing them to display their phone numbers.”

She continued to say that the change sent “a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.”

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, welcomed the move, saying that “Any change that make it easier for us to track down and take action against companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause.”

Commenting on the new rules, Jonathan White, director of legal at National Accident Helpline – a signatory of the Ethical Marketing Charter – also supported to move, but added that effectively tackling the issue would require a “proactive approach not only from government and regulators but industries and individual business themselves”.