Action demanded in fight against nuisance calls

Alex Neill, managing director of home and legal at Which?, said the problem of nuisance calls is growing fast.
Alex Neill, managing director of home and legal at Which?, said the problem of nuisance calls is growing fast.
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Consumer groups and politicians have called for the Scottish Government to publish an action plan to tackle the scourge of unwanted phone calls ahead of the first meeting of a government-led commission established to tackle the problem.

The Scottish Government’s Nuisance Calls Commission – set to meet on Wednesday – is to consult regulators, consumer groups and industry over the issue, which sees thousands of consumers deluged with nuisance texts and phone calls.

Consumer groups including Which? and telecoms regulator Ofcom will be involved in the discussion.

Official figures show that Scots registered with call blockers are being targeted by an average of 37 unwanted calls every month.

Alex Neill, managing director of home and legal at Which?, said: “Our latest research shows that the problem is growing, and we need solutions fast. Scottish ministers now have new consumer powers and this is exactly the kind of problem they should tackle head-on in order to improve the lives of consumers in Scotland.”

MSP James Kelly, Scottish Labour’s business manager in Holyrood, called for involved parties to ensure that the commission is “more than just a talking shop”.

He said: “The commission is welcome, but there have to be some practical elements to come out of it.”

Economy secretary Keith Brown has previously said that the commission will focus on empowering consumers to protect themselves, tackling persistently offending companies, supporting firms that want to do the right thing, and seeking to improve the regulatory environment.

However, he has claimed that “devolution arrangements mean the Scottish Government has limited powers” to tackle the problem.

Last week, a report from Which? found that people living in Scottish cities suffer more nuisance phone calls than elsewhere in Britain.

Glasgow ranked top out of 18 cities across the UK for cold-calling, with Edinburgh second and Aberdeen fourth.

Alongside call blocking provider trueCall, Which? analysed more than nine million phone calls made to trueCall customers between January 2013 and September 2016.

They found more than half of calls in Glasgow were classified as a nuisance, as were 47.8 per cent in Edinburgh and 45.6 per cent in Aberdeen.

The second session of the Nuisance Calls Commission, which is due to meet in January, is expected to discuss ways of supporting companies that want to provide guidance or find ways to share best practice and identify effective ways to tackle the most persistently offending companies or individuals.

Solutions due to be considered include providing people identified as being at high risk of financial damage and personal distress with call-blocking devices funded by the UK government.