Your phone rings and you pick up. Instead of a warm voice on the other end, you get the cold, robotic tones of an automated message trying to sell you something you probably don’t want. So, how can you make sure that your mobile is protected from disruptive and potentially costly cold-calls?
Unsolicited sales calls are known as ‘cold calls’, and they are something that millions of mobile phone owners are all-too-familiar with.
One piece of recent news that may warm the hearts of anyone who has been plagued by calls asking about the details of a road accident that you may have been involved in is news that a record fine of £400,000 was issued to a company called Keurboom for making nuisance calls of that kind to nearly 100 million people!
Know Your Rights - Report Callers To The ICO
Most people have resigned themselves to receiving the occasional irritating call but the truth is that these calls are actually illegal.
Keurboom received the fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) because commercial automated calls or text made to you without consent are against the law.
Over 1000 (only a fraction of the total calls made) of the people who were repeatedly called by Keurboom late at night made complaints to the ICO.
If you are harassed by unsolicited automated calls, reporting callers to the ICO can be an effective way of stopping the culprits at source, thereby saving us all the trouble of receiving their calls.
Register with the Telephone Preference Service
By registering your landline or mobile number with the Telephone Preference Service, you will have an additional layer of protection against automated cold calls.
After the 28-day processing period, companies will not be allowed to phone you for marketing reasons without prior consent (see the next section for more on this).
If you have already accidentally given company permission or you’ve changed your mind for any reason, contact them directly and ask them to stop doing so. According to the law, they must obey your request.
Registering with the TPS is free and can be easily done online on their website or by calling them at 0845 070 0707.
There are other companies offering a similar service, but they may charge a fee and telemarketers are only required to check with the TPS.
Even though this is a popular and helpful measure you can take, it does not guarantee immunity.
Did You Tick the Right Box?
Reading the fine print is generally a good idea (if you have the time). When you buy something online or sign up for a service or newsletter, always pay attention to the little boxes that are “optional” to tick.
Sometimes ticking them allows the company to share your details with other businesses for marketing purposes, and sometimes it’s the opposite. Occasionally, however, boxes can even be pre-ticked for you. If there is more than one box, it could be a combination.
The message is, therefore, take the time to read the accompanying print carefully, and to take note of what the ticks (or lack of them) in the boxes actually mean can save you a lot of trouble in the future.
Be Careful When You Reply To Texts
Depending on who the message is from, your reply could encourage more messages.
If you trust the company sending the message or if the sender's number is a five-digit number, sending a reply with just “STOP” will solve the problem, and prevent you from being charged.
If you do not recognise the sender, then replying can backfire by acting as confirmation that your phone number is valid, thus triggering more automated communication. In this case, the best thing to do would be to just ignore it.
What you can do instead is make a report to your network operator by forwarding the message to 7726, which coincidentally spells SPAM if you type it out on your keypad.
Go Ex-Directory & Keep Your Mobile Number Private
There are a number of ways your number can be obtained. BT has a directory service which allows companies to find telephone numbers and addresses online, over the phone, or in a phone book.
To prevent your number from being listed, make sure to sign up for the optional Ex-Directory scheme.
Opting out of the “edited register” of the electoral roll when you sign up as a voter is another step you can take to prevent having your contact details sold to unscrupulous marketers.
Get the Numbers Blocked
Some network operators offer a service that enables you to block calls from reported numbers, though there may be a fee incurred for the service.
If they do not, you can purchase a call blocker app for your phone that will work for numbers that you “blacklist”. You can check with your provider to see if it is already included in your mobile contract.
File a Complaint
A simple solution may just be to file an official complaint with the offending company.
When asked, the caller must provide the organisation’s name, address or a free phone number for getting in touch with them.
As mentioned earlier, a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) may also prompt the regulator to take action against the marketer (combined with complaints from other people).
If you decide to file a complaint, it may be helpful (though not essential) to make a note of the time and date of the call, the phone number, and the company’s name.
Just Ignore Them
In the unlikely event that you have exhausted all these options to no avail, the only option left would be to screen your calls and be selective as to which calls you choose to answer. The risk is that you may mistake some legitimate calls for nuisance ones, but at least you won’t have to listen to any more sales pitches, and after enough failed attempts, the callers may simply give up.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Time, and keeping your phone free to enable you to receive calls that could actually make you money rather than cost you money, are valuable to businesses. With more of us relying on our smartphones for more aspects of our business, and with more business people being more mobile than ever, taking these kinds of measures to eradicate junk calls from our mobiles is vital. With our mobile number, people also get directly through to us rather than the traditional company ‘gatekeeper’ e.g. the receptionist, so this is another good reason why it’s important to proactively take what steps we can to free-up our mobile time for value-adding, money making calls rather than frustrating, line-blocking, potentially costly calls. Being aware of ways in which our online and offline behaviour could give fuel to junk-callers is therefore necessary, and this subject is a lesson in why taking some time to read the small print (within reason) now could actually make life easier and help us make more effective use of time and make / save money in the future.