Crockart’s Nuisance Calls Bill to be debated tomorrow as All Party Group recommends action

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Mike Crockart’s Private Member’s Bill (or the Communications (Unsolicited telephone calls and texts Bill to give it its proper name) is up for its second reading tomorrow. It’s the only Liberal Democrat measure being discussed. The Bill aims to ensure that people are not bothered by unwanted calls if they don’t want to be. The explanatory notes to the Bill are here.

By amazing coincidence, the  All Party Parliamentary Group on Nuisance Calls, of which Mike is co-chair,  published its report on the unsolicited marketing industry this morning. It makes sixteen recommendations in 4 areas – improving compliance, making it easier to report if you’ve had one of these calls, protecting consumers, particularly vulnerable people and giving the regulator more powers. They want to see telecoms companies blocking numbers known to make nuisance calls and they want to have much more explicit consent.

We’re probably all familiar with the drill. Your phone goes, usually at the most inconvenient time of day, just as you’re expecting other calls from family members wanting picked up or taken somewhere, so you answer it. You end up with some recorded voice trying to sell you double glazing or tell you about your PPI claim or the like. But, as Nick Waugh from the Citizens Advice Bureau pointed out in an oral evidence session (page 100 of the report). some are just plain old scams which prey on vulnerable people:

We’ve seen quite a lot of nuisance calls happening after people have been looking online for payday loans and they’ve put in their details on something which usually turns out to be a disreputable credit broker’s website. And then they get a phone call a couple of days later saying, we know you were looking for a loan online, we’d like to offer you one. But then you have to pay an upfront fee and then of course that’s a scam and then it spirals out of control, people actually lose quite a lot of money through that.
You can bet your life these will be people who can least afford to lose money.
Mike Crockart was on Radio 5 Live this morning (here from about 37:04)
He said that we were closer to seeing action on this than we have been for many years. He said that the technology was there for telecoms industry to block numbers that make nuisance calls but the willingness to do something about it wasn’t.
I can’t imagine that this Bill won’t pass its second reading tomorrow, but here’s the rub. It has no chance of becoming law unless it gets parliamentary time and it won’t get the time unless the Government gives it. Or, of course, it could bring in its own legislation.  Let’s hope that they don’t ignore the 20,000 people who have signed the petition.
This would be a very easy quick win for the Government. Tackling something that annoys everybody might get them some goodwill. Why wouldn’t they? As Mike says:
That should not be too much to ask. We have told Ministers how they can help stop nuisance calls. There is no need for further delays.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Eddie Sammon 31st Oct '13 - 5:51pm

    The bill should only pass if it also applies to political parties. Telephone marketing can be fine if done politely, as the Lib Dems know.

  • Stephen Hesketh 31st Oct '13 - 8:46pm

    This would do much to give us peace in our own homes or whilst near any mobile device. I urge all Lib Dem MPs to support it.

  • Real problem is these calls are often from overseas so beyond the regulators. I am already registered with telephone preference and it makes very little difference.

  • Eddie Sammon 31st Oct '13 - 11:28pm

    I admit something should be done about some kinds of cold-calling, it is just that many people in the private sector are still scared of the Liberal Democrats because of our left-wing past. This can cause us to panic.

  • “I am already registered with telephone preference and it makes very little difference.”

    Is the party line still to include people registered with TPS when telephone canvassing? When it’s been discussed in the past here the general attitude seems to have been that “regulation is for other people”, despite very clear guidance from the Information Commissioner that TPS should prohibit political parties from soliciting support by telephone.

  • Ed Shepherd 1st Nov '13 - 8:44am

    Marketing calls, whether from private companies soliciting for funds or from political parties soliciting for funds, are unwelcome and should be banned. They cause a great deal of distress to people who are ill, suggestible or confused.

  • Marketing calls, whether from private companies soliciting for funds or from political parties soliciting for funds, are unwelcome and should be banned. They cause a great deal of distress to people who are ill, suggestible or confused.

    And the Information Commissioner defines “marketing activity” to include political parties soliciting any kind of support:
    “Telephone calls made by a political party to promote the party or solicit support are a marketing activity.”

  • Personally, I think political calls should be in a separate category, as some people may be irritated by commercial calls but not democracy, or vice versa.
    Agree with Peter Hayes – unless international action is taken, it will continue from abroad. I get several a week usually from India, even though I never engage with them.

  • Ed Shepherd 2nd Nov '13 - 6:25pm

    I think political canvassing on the telephone should also be banned. Why should people put up with having their lives unterrupted and confusion caused just because political parties want to gain some more votes? If I go on the TPS, I do not want to receive any unsolicited phone calls of any kind except in a dire emergency.

  • Ed Shepherd 2nd Nov '13 - 8:12pm

    From Simon Shaw, “Yeah, it’s really confusing having someone ring you and ask which political party you support. If you are opposed to people “having their lives interrupted” would you also ban doorstep canvassing?”

    Yes, it certainly is for people suffering from certain mental illnesses, dementia, people who are desperately trying to get the kids to bed, have just come home from an exhausting day at work or people whose physical disability makes it difficult for them to get to the phone. It’s also highly intrusive and somewhat sinister. For instance, do you think the BNP and the CPGB should be allowed to make random phone calls asking people which political party they support?
    Yes, I would ban doorstep canvassing. It is intrusive. Would I want the local NF candidate turning up on my doorstep asking me who I vote for? No.
    If you want me to support your views on telephone canvassing then reasoned argument would be a lot more effective in converting me than sarcasm.

  • “Yes, it certainly is for people suffering from certain mental illnesses, dementia …”

    Personally speaking, my appetite for canvassing finally evaporated after I had called on two recently bereaved and obviously very upset people in quick succession. I felt it was very difficult to justify having disturbed them. The same goes for people with dementia, people with serious mobility problems, and to some extent many elderly people on dark evenings. Of course in a democracy you can’t just ban canvassing, but there is a serious issue here that can’t just be batted away with a flippant comment.

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