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Nuisance calls DOUBLE, Ofcom vows to hunt down offenders

Not that easy when you only regulate UK firms, eh?

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Ofcom has outlined yet another plan to target annoying phones calls, which according to its latest report have doubled. It is hoping that imposing a few fines, writing several stern letters and doing more research will stem the flow - despite remaining entirely powerless to prevent calls that originate outside the UK.

Many of the calls are silent, while others promise competition wins or cash rewards for unclaimed insurance or prize winnings, and responding to public complaints Ofcom has come up with a five-point plan to get them stopped, though given the regulators already handed out decent fines to UK companies guilty of generating them, while foreigners continue to call with alacrity, its hard to see what's changed.

Ofcom's new plan starts with logging more calls, getting a sample of the public to keep a diary of every call, then working with the industry to better identify calling numbers (which are often obfuscated). Once the guilty party has been identified, and assuming it's a UK company, then Ofcom will write them a stiff letter followed by a fine if that fails.

The last two points of the plan cover working with other regulators such as the ICO to trace where numbers are coming from, and the fining the miscreants again (yes, that is mentioned in point three, but it's worth mentioning again).

Silent calls are generated by machines which dial numbers, and then look for a call-centre operative when a call is answered, going silent if there aren't any available. That really upsets some people, and isn't allowed, but other calls include recorded messages and texts promising fame and fortune if you'll just confirm you're a human being by pressing a key or two (so a salesman can get onto the line).

Many people use the Telephone Preference Service to opt out of cold calling, which works well enough for calls originating in the UK, but a huge number of these calls are coming from India, Florida and elsewhere and even those who do dutifully collect the company's details and pass them on to the regulator just end up with a collection of letters apologising for its inability to do anything about them given that the offenders are operating outside its jurisdiction. ®

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