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Ed Vaizey promises to personally contact cold-calling company bosses

Communications minister Ed Vaizey has promised to personally contact the bosses of nuisance-calling firms.

Complaints about cold calls have made them one of Vaizey’s top three priorities, he told the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

He also signalled that watchdogs will get more powers to prosecute nuisance-calling companies when the government publishes a strategy on the problem in October.

Ed Vaizey promises to personally contact cold-calling company bosses
Ed Vaizey will take on the cold callers himself

Ed Vaizey said: “I see myself as an activist minister. I have said to the regulator that I will happily ring up any chief executive they can name, of any company who they believe is presiding over a company that is causing a problem.

“We will make the changes that they have called for and suggested ways that they could improve the situation.”

Media regulator Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, which follows up complaints to tackle persistent cold callers, have asked the government reduce the level of harm it needs to prove before it can prosecute.

It wants to tackle the many smaller companies who make the majority of nuisance calls, although each one attracts only a small number of complaints.

Simon Entwisle, the ICO’s director of operations, said: “The simple fact is that the law only allows the ICO to take action against the worst offenders.

“A change in the law would allow us to target more of the companies making these cold calls, and would have a noticeable effect for consumers. This could be a game-changing improvement to how we can stop unwanted calls.

“There’s a balance to be struck between a direct marketing industry that relies heavily on making calls, and consumers who feel they’re being bombarded. It’s for MPs to decide where the balance lies, but I think it’s fair to say that most people probably don’t think the law’s getting it right at the moment.”

Vaizey said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also investigating whether it would be possible to set an expiry date for ‘third party consent’ – the permission we often give to be contacted when ticking boxes in online forms.

The Telephone Preference Service also wants a public rogue’s gallery of nuisance-calling companies and their directors.

TPS head John Mitchison said: “Nuisance calls are caused by rogue companies flouting the law by calling people registered with the TPS’ ‘do not call’ list.

“We agree with the ICO’s call for legislative changes that make it easier for them to issue penalties to tackle the problem of nuisance calls. 

“It’s not enough to fine the biggest offenders. Naming and shaming rogue companies will also act as a deterrent to others and increase people’s confidence in the current system that’s designed to protect them.”

Image: markhillary/Flickr


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