Plans to punish nuisance callers as experts and members of the public look to turn the tables

Nuisance calls have been targeted Credit: Simon Galloway/EMPICS Sport

The government is drawing up plans to make it easier to penalise telemarketing companies that plague members of the public with unwanted calls.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller is to launch a consultation this year on lowering the threshold for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to take action against offending companies.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is also consulting on hefty fines for claims management companies that exploit information from unsolicited calls and texts.

Richard Cox, a telecoms fraud investigator, said nuisance calls can leave vulnerable people feeling frightened:

Despite an increase in the maximum fine it can impose to £500,000, the ICO still received 120,310 complaints relating to unsolicited marketing calls made between April and November last year.

Currently the calls must cause "substantial stress" or "substantial damage" for the ICO to impose sanctions, but Mrs Miller said the consultation will consider whether there should be a lower threshold.

Stephen Brown, from Bishop's Stortford, has turned the tables on nuisance callers, using tactics to delay them while playing pranks on those who would otherwise take advantage of people.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "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."

The MoJ will tomorrow launch a consultation on whether firms that break Claims Management Regulation Unit rules should face fines of up to 20% of their annual turnover.