UK

Cold call firms to be forced to display number - government

Call centre worker Image copyright Thinkstock

Companies that cold call customers will no longer be able to hide or disguise their phone numbers, under government plans to target nuisance calls.

The new measure will force firms registered in the UK to display their phone numbers, even if their call centres are based abroad.

The government says the move will make it easier for consumers to report nuisance callers.

But the Fair Telecoms Campaign said the move would not stop cold calling.

The Department for Culture Media and Sport is expected to announce the amendment to existing legislation on Monday. The changes will take effect from 16 May.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for data protection, said the change will send a "clear message" to rogue companies.

"Nuisance calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant harm to elderly and vulnerable members of society."

The government was committed to tackling the problem, she said.

'Range of options'

John Mitchison, from the Direct Marketing Association - the UK marketing trade association that represents official telemarketing firms - said displaying phone numbers had been its recommendation to companies for "many years".

"This change will make it easier for consumers to identify the legitimate companies and report the rogue operators to the relevant authorities," he added.

However, the Fair Telecoms Campaign - which campaigns for consumer rights - said the move will not stop rogue firms.

David Hickson, from the campaign, said: "It's absurd to think that seeing a number that you don't recognise is any different from not seeing any number at all.

"What they should be doing is taking action where they can to prohibit the whole practice of making unsolicited telephone calls and see that consumers have a good range of options on their telephone networks to help protect them from this nonsense."

Last year, the government introduced changes to make it easier to impose fines on the companies behind cold calls and nuisance text messages.

In February, Brighton-based firm Prodial was given the largest ever fine by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) - £350,000 - for cold calling.

It was responsible for making more than 46 million automated nuisance calls.

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