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Psst, wanna block nuisance calls? BT'll do it... for a price

The phone that's not at home to spammers

The essential guide to IT transformation

BT's latest phone, the BT6500, can prevent spammers from getting through to the harassed householder, forwarding them to an integrated answerphone - so BT still gets paid, of course.

The householder will have to check those messages regularly though, as any caller withholding their Caller ID could end up there too, along with any call originating abroad. BT reckons that will knock out 80 per cent of unwanted cold calls, but its a sad reflection on how common sales calls are that anyone is willing to risk missing calls from paranoid friends as well as anyone not currently in the UK.

The phone costs £44.99, or comes with a second handset for £69.99, and can be configured to push certain calls direct to the answerphone. International calls, withheld numbers, calls from payphones and those lacking a caller ID can all be marked as straight-to-answerphone, which should take out the majority even if it means missing a few wanted calls too.

It's far from the only choice, boxes from trueCall and CallBlocker camp on the incoming phone line and intercept calls, both requiring the caller to prove their humanity by pressing a number. trueCall has a load of other functionalities too, including the ability to block calls like the BT6500, but that's reflected in the higher price (trueCall starts at a hundred quid, while CallBlocker is only £55).

The Telephone Preference Service is supposed to take care of this - register one's number and UK companies promise not to call one up at all hours selling stuff - but these days the majority of such calls originate outside the UK and thus outside the jurisdiction of the TPS or Ofcom, making it all but impossible to control.

The cause is cheap telecommunications, along with a cultural bias which prompts us to put everything aside to answer the phone - the bias being based on outmoded idea if someone bothers to phone it must be important. Younger people, who grew up with cheap or free minutes, don't always feel the same way and will happily ignore phone calls in a way which can make the aging generation distinctly uncomfortable.

But until that lot grow up, and mentally lump phone calls into the waterfall of irrelevant communications to which one is exposed these days, then bodge jobs like the BT6500 and CallBlocker will have to do, wrong as it seems. ®

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