The Nuisance Calls Action Plan sets out the actions being taken by Government, regulators, consumer groups and industry to tackle nuisance calls.
It reveals the Government will consult on lowering the legal threshold for when firms can be fined for making nuisance calls.
Alongside the Action Plan Justice Secretary Chris Grayling unveiled plans to impose fines of hundreds of thousands of pounds on claims management companies which use information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts and other bad practices.
Maria Miller said:
Nuisance calls must stop. At best they are an irritation and an unwanted intrusion, at worst they cause real distress and fear, particularly to the elderly or housebound.
The Action Plan brings together Government, regulators, consumer groups and industry in a comprehensive and co-ordinated effort to clamp down on nuisance calls.
The rules are clear – people have the right to choose not to receive unsolicited marketing calls. We will work to ensure their choice is respected.
There were 120,310 complaints about nuisance calls between April and November 2013. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for unsolicited marketing calls while Ofcom deals with silent and abandoned calls.
New measures to tackle nuisance calls include:
Consulting later this year on making it easier for the ICO to fine companies. Currently calls must cause ‘substantial damage’ or ‘substantial distress’;
Simplifing how Ofcom can share information with the ICO and the Insolvency Service about rogue companies;
Which? will review how consumers agree to receive calls from specific firms and report to Government;
The Ministry of Justice are consulting on whether regulated companies that breach Claims Management Regulation Unit rules should face fines up to 20 per cent of their annual turnover for offences including using information gathered by unsolicited calls and texts.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
It is time to stop these claims companies from plaguing hardworking people’s lives and wasting everyone’s time – the scale of these fines shows just how serious we are about stopping them.
The Claims Management Regulator already takes tough action against companies which break the rules, suspending and closing down rogue firms, but now these fines will give us an extra weapon to drive bad behaviour out of the industry.
Actions already taken on nuisance calls and rogue claims management companies include:
Increasing the fines Ofcom can issue from £50,000 to £2 million and enabling the ICO to issue fines up to £500,000;
Fines totalling £2.54 million have been issued by the regulators since January 2012;
Companies persistently breaching the nuisance calls rules are named and shamed by the ICO on their website;
Informal action by the ICO has seen companies like British Gas and TalkTalk cut the complaints against them by up to 75%;
Simplified and consistent guidance on how to stop marketing calls and how to complain has been published;
A voluntary accreditation scheme for direct marketing companies was launched in October last so firms can show they follow best practice.
Appointing extra enforcement staff to the Claims Management Regulation unit at the Ministry of Justice
Banning claims firms from taking fees from customers before a contract has been signed and naming firms online which are subject to enforcement action or under investigation.
Unsolicited live direct marketing calls cannot be made to a number that is registered with the Telephone Preference Service unless the person has agreed to receive calls by that company.