THE conversation went exactly like this: “Hello, I’m calling to talk to you about your PPI claim.”

Me: “What PPI claim? I haven’t made one?”

Caller: “You must have.”

Me: “No, I haven’t.”

Caller: “Yes, you have.”

Me: “I’m sorry - but I think I know whether I have made a claim or not. Who is this calling?”

Caller: “I told you. It’s about your PPI.”

Me: “OK. I’ve had enough of this. This number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service, which means you are not allowed to cold-call me….”

Caller (interrupting): “I’m not cold-calling. This is market research.”

Me: “OK, Can I have your name and the name of the company you’re calling from, please? And I’d also like the name of your supervisor, please.”

Caller: “F***!” followed by the dial tone…

Sound familiar? Sadly, there are thousands of phone calls like that made every day across this country and many of them drag on for far longer.

Like this one, many of them end with the dialling tone and a glance at the handset to see that the number you were called from is “Withheld.”

It’s a pattern that can drive you crazy. In some cases, people are plagued by dozens of these calls every day.

So, many people will have been heartened last week by the news that two Bradford companies have been fined a total of £150,000 for making hundreds of nuisance calls.

The Information Commissioner’s Office received 440 complaints about Laura Anderson Ltd, trading as Virgo Home Improvements, over 19 months, and 264 complaints about HPAS Ltd, trading as Safestyle UK, in a 20-month period.

Virgo, based on Caledonia Street, off Wakefield Road was fined £80,000 and Safestyle UK, based at Style House, on Eldon Place, Manningham, was fined £70,000.

The companies both made direct marketing calls to people registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and Safestyle UK was said to have been “repeatedly warned” against making such calls and placed on formal monitoring three times, but the complaints had continued.

The ICO said, in the case of both companies, the number of actual nuisance calls made was probably higher because it was likely that only some of the victims had made official complaints.

The ICO found that neither company had subscribed to the TPS register to check whether the people they were contacting had opted out of receiving direct marketing. Both companies also contacted people after being explicitly told not to call again, which is against the law.

Steve Eckersley, ICO Head of Enforcement, said: “Companies have no excuse – if people are registered with the Telephone Preference Service they are off limits.

“The law is clear and if companies fall foul of it with illegal and overly-aggressive telesales tactics, we will take action on behalf of the people who suffer the nuisance.”

For those plagued by these calls, it’s encouraging to hear the ICO talking tough.

The TPS can be very effective. It is a free service where you record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls on a central national register.

Under the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so.

It is more complicated if you are already a customer (or donor to charity) as you may well have effectively given them consent to call you, which they can do even if your number is registered on TPS, unless you have previously told them specifically that you object to them calling you for marketing purposes.

And companies can still call you for genuine market research, although falsely claiming they are doing so (like my PPI friend) is also illegal.

The TPS acknowledges that the system only works if firms follow the rules.

“Any reputable company that values its customers and its brand image takes the TPS very seriously,” they say.

“We are aware that in recent months there has been a rise in the number of unsolicited calls being received by people registered on the TPS.

“These calls are mainly from companies that deliberately ignore the law and either hide or disguise their identity.”

They might withhold the number they are calling from or display a fake number. They sometimes use generic sounding names that cannot be used to accurately identify an organisation, such as Solar Panels UK or PPI Claims Ltd, or they may refuse to give you any details at all.

“Understandably, this makes contacting these companies or targeting them for enforcement extremely difficult or even impossible,” says the TPS.

There are thousands of calls every day from companies like these trying to benefit from short term financial opportunities based on generating sales leads for things such as accident claims, PPI claims, solar energy installation, and insulation grants etc.

So how can you protect yourself against the cold calls nuisance?

Ofcom has produced a simple guide to handling telesales calls, automated and silent calls, spam text messages and number spoofing scams, where nuisance callers deliberately change their Caller ID.

You can find it on their website: under the “Phones, telecom and internet” section.


They also publish an “easy read guide” which you can download for elderly relatives who are less confident at dealing with such issues.

And there’s detailed information about complaining as well as a quick way to check if you are registered on the TPS website:

Some of the complainants in the cases against the Bradford firms said they had been harassed for long periods, one for up to five years.

The best way to beat the nuisance callers, it seems, is not to join them – but to join the growing chorus of complaints and make the voice of the victims heard loud and clear.