Watchdog to clamp down on nuisance phone calls

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A fresh clampdown on claims management firms has been launched by Ofcom after it found evidence of people being plagued with “annoying” and “distressing” nuisance phone calls.

Research carried out by the regulator over a month found that four out of five consumers received nuisance calls, averaging two a week.

A quarter of people who took part reported receiving more than ten nuisance calls over the period.

Those who took part in the survey were designed to reflect the general UK population and they were asked to make a diary of the calls they received. The bulk of nuisance calls related to payment protection insurance (PPI), which made up more than half (51 per cent) of unwanted sales calls.

Ofcom said complaints figures have indicated that large numbers of nuisance calls are being generated by some claims management companies.

A spokeswoman for Ofcom said the regulator is gathering further evidence and if its suspicions are confirmed it will launch full-blown formal investigations against these firms.

Ofcom has also written to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to draw attention to the extent to which PPI claims appear to be driving nuisance calls.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer group director, said: “Two nuisance calls a week is too many and this detailed research will help us understand the root cause of the problem.

“We will use the full range of our powers to tackle abandoned and silent calls, but this is a complex area that requires joint action from a number of different agencies and Government.”

Calls about PPI were considered to be the most “annoying” by more than 850 people surveyed while calls from companies purporting to offer computer support or maintenance were seen as the most “worrying” and “distressing”.

Energy, market research and insurance were also among the most commonly cited reasons for unwanted calls.

Consumers were only able to identify the name of the company calling in one in five nuisance calls and the telephone number in one third of these calls.

Ofcom said it is working with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which also has responsibility for regulating calls and texts and the Claims Management Regulator, which is part of the MoJ and oversees claims managers’ conduct.