End of the line for anonymous cold callers: Now firms face fines if they withhold their numbers

COLD callers who plague householders with unwanted sales pitches will no longer be able to hide their phone numbers, under new rules announced today.

Picture: PA

A new code of conduct will require direct marketing companies and other nuisance callers to use Caller ID to display their numbers, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said.

The crackdown follows 170,000 complaints last year about marketing calls. The government estimates at least one firm in five makes calls anonymously.

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From the spring, companies whose numbers show as “withheld” will face fines of up to £500,000.

Ministers believe the new rules will make it easier for people to refuse unwanted calls, and then to report them. However, telephone companies may charge customers to turn on Caller ID.

Data protection minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “Being pestered by marketing calls is annoying at the best of times and at its worst it can bring real misery for the people on the receiving end.

“There is no simple solution to the problem of nuisance calls, but making direct marketing companies display their telephone number will help consumers and regulators take action.”

Fines totalling £2m have so far been levied against cold callers. Last September, one company was fined £200,000 for making more than six million nuisance calls as part of an automated marketing campaign. Another firm had its licence suspended for making 40 million calls about payment protection insurance in just three months.

The consumers’ group Which? says nearly three quarters of people receive unwanted calls on their landlines with almost as many reporting calls to their mobile handsets.