Hold company bosses responsible for cold calls, Government told

Unwanted automated calls came top in a poll of Britain's top annoyances. Credit: PA

Heads of companies should be held responsible for nuisance phone calls to consumer's private numbers as they make lives a misery, a Government task force has recommended.

Over a billion "cold calls" are made every year much, most of which distress the people who pick up, the expert report said.

Complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reached 18,594 for live calls and 22,072 for automated messages between April and June. Most focused on accident claims, payday loans and debt management.

The high number of complaints about this distressing sales practice has lead the ICO to call on the government to hold executives to account if their company fails to follow the rules on cold calling, the Nuisance Calls Task Force said.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, who chaired the panel, said:

The report said consumers often do not realise they have given permission to receive messages and called for them to be able to easily revoke consent.

Companies should ensure any sales leads they buy have been fairly and legally obtained and records of what consent has been obtained, as well as how and when, must be kept.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "For too long nuisance calls have plagued consumers, often at very inconvenient times of the day and in some cases leaving vulnerable people like the elderly too scared to answer the phone.

"That's why we're determined to tackle this scourge through the first ever nuisance calls action plan.

"We've already made progress including making it easier for Ofcom to share information with the ICO about companies breaking the rules, and we're currently looking at lowering or removing the legal threshold before firms could be hit with fines of up to £500,000."

Justice minister Simon Hughes said: "Unwanted marketing calls and texts can bring real misery for the people on the receiving end and this Government is determined to tackle the problem.

"We have already increased the level of fines available to punish rogue companies.

"We now want to make it easier for the Information Commissioner to take action against these companies which break the law. Those responsible should be held to account, and we will review how they are made to answer for any wrongdoing."

Read: Daily unwanted automated calls 'top annoyance'