BT, Virgin Media and other ISPs that currently charge for caller ID could be forced to make the service free to customers.
An inquiry into nuisance calls launched by DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) has also called on the government to ban telemarketing companies from using withheld numbers, in a bid to crack down on nuisance calls.
Telemarkting companies that break the rules can be fined heavily by Ofcom and the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office). Tracing the culprits isn’t always easy and the DCMS report comes with recommendations to help change this.
The Committee of 10 MPs, was chaired by John Whittingdale Conservative MP for Maldon. There is no indication yet that the recommendations will be turned into law but the reports findings could form the basis of a future green paper.
The report says: “We recommend that the government legislates to proscribe the withholding of caller identification in telephone calls made either for marketing or for establishing marketing leads. We discourage consumers from making any purchase arising from telephone marketing activity where a valid contact telephone number has not been provided.”
BT is currently working on a way to make it easier to trace organisations who aren’t intending on playing by the rules. BT has started to make the CLI (Calling Line Identity) of overseas marketing companies available to some of it UK customers. As part of an ongoing upgrade of the BT network this service should be available to all customers by Autumn 2014.
Before then, BT could well be forced to drop charges for caller ID if the Committee’s recommendations are followed. Currently BT doesn’t directly charge for its Privacy at Home feature, but will apply a £2 charge if a minimum number of calls aren’t made every month.
From January 2014, BT plans to drop this to £1.75/month, lower than the £2.25/month charged by Virgin Media to customers who want caller ID.
Sky and TalkTalk don’t currently charge customers for caller ID but should the proposals become enforced, it might not have the chance to.
Update: A BT spokesperson got in touch to clarify its position on caller ID. The spokesperson said: “Customers can get Caller Display free. They just need to sign up to a 12-month line-rental contract. There are no upfront charges, this is open to all and easy to take advantage of. We are telling customers about this, ensuring that people who want free Caller Display can have it. We will continue to offer BT Privacy with Caller Display free of charge to customers on BT Basic, our calling plan for low income customers.”