Government to crack down on pension cold calls

Plans to ban pensions cold calling will be set out in next week's Autumn Statement.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Philip Hammond will outline proposals to stop the calls, which can leave vulnerable people being tricked out of their life savings.

Under the new plans, calls where a business does not have an existing relationship to someone will be forbidden, and this includes fraudsters targeting people who inadvertently "opt-in" to third-party communications.

Enforcement by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) could include fines of up to £500,000 for firms that attempt to breach the ban.

Cold callers often present scams as "investment opportunities", like putting money into a new hotel in an exotic location, or other projects that are too good to be true.

It is hoped that the crackdown will end the misery caused by 250 million scam calls made every year - the equivalent of eight every second.

The government will consult on the proposals before the end of the year, and next steps will be announced in next year's Budget.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice which recommended the action, said: "The government's ban on pension cold calls is the right move to protect people. The power to fine scammers also means enforcement bodies will be able to put a stop to any scammers that still target people's savings."

Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister, said the move is a "victory for common sense and for customer protection".

She said: "No bona fide company should contact people out of the blue offering free pension reviews or investment schemes for their pension savings.

"If a firm wants to generate new customers, they will have to find better ways than just buying up lists of contact details and cold calling people."

Steve Webb, also a former pensions minister, welcomed the move, saying: "If it becomes known that anyone ringing up out of the blue to offer you a special deal on pensions or investments is committing an offence, this will make it much harder for the scammers."