Cold calling: is it illegal and what are your rights?

If you live in the UK and have a phone number, it’s likely that you have experienced a cold call at some point in the past. Cold calls are unsolicited phone calls where a company gets in contact with you to try to sell you something even though you haven’t displayed any interest in their product. Of course, cold calls are just a marketing technique that many legitimate businesses use to make more sales, and many people don’t mind being called and offered deals on products. But at their worst, cold calls can be a real pain and quite stressful to deal with.

Getting constant nuisance phone calls on products that you have absolutely no interest in purchasing can be become extremely aggravating over time. This has led many people to wonder whether these sorts of calls are actually legal at all. In this article, we will look at the legality of cold calls and the rights that you have if you find you are being called on a regular basis.

There are many different methods that can be used to stop or deter cold calls, but first Dakota Murphey looks at what the law has to say about them.

Is cold calling legal?

Cold calling can be very frustrating, especially if you are receiving multiple calls on a daily basis attempting to sell you products that you neither want nor have any need for. Given that this is the case, it may be disappointing to learn that cold calling is not illegal. According to British law, companies are allowed to call people to make sales to them as potential customers.

Nevertheless, cold calling remains very controversial, especially on hard-sell industries that revolve around money, such as short-term and pay-day loan businesses. In these situations, vulnerable people can be pressured into signing up to agreements they don’t necessarily fully understand. That’s why it is so important for you to understand your rights regarding cold calls.

Understanding your rights

It should first be noted that while cold calling is legal, companies have to respect your wishes. If you take a call and tell them that you don’t want to be contacted again, they have to stop calling you. If you have asked them to stop and they continue, this is against the law and you should report them to the proper authorities

Thankfully, the authority called the Information Commissioner’s Office now has the power to impose a £500,000 fine on companies behind nuisance calls. But this might not be much comfort while you’re still having to deal with the calls yourself. Below we’ve created a list of some of the things that you can do to stop cold calls.

Does your business cold call?

It might also be the case that your business is currently one of the companies that use cold calling tactics. Once again it should be stated that there is nothing illegal about doing this as long as you to stick within the law. However, given that it is a topic that is shrouded in controversy, it’s important that you should understand your responsibilities. This is not just because you will avoid being fined or penalised, but also because you can make a better impression on your potential customers.

It is a good idea to get expert advice from firms of solicitors that specialise in business law. Solicitors like George Ide LLP can help ensure that you confirm to all of the correct regulations as it can be easy to slip up and find yourself facing a heavy fine. Any business that makes cold calls should seek professional guidance first.

Ways to stop cold calling:

  • Sign up to the Telephone Preference Service – in the UK you can sign up to a service which means that UK-based companies are not allowed to make unsolicited calls to your phone. Of course, this won’t stop scam callers or companies based overseas, but it can cut down on the number of annoying sales calls you receive
  • Don’t pick up unknown numbers – before picking up any call to your phone make sure that you check the number. If you don’t know it and you weren’t expecting a call, just cancel it straight away. If the person on the other end of the line is serious, they’ll leave you a message
  • Call barring – the Telephone Preference Service mentioned above only deals with companies inside the UK, but many cold calls come from abroad. It may be possible for your provider to block calls from international numbers if you find you are regularly called from outside the UK
  • Remove your name from sales lists – whenever you sign up to something new – any sort of online account with a business – you should carefully check the details including the information on who will be allowed to contact you. Many terms and conditions allow you to stop your details from being passed on for marketing purposes
  • Report offenders – undoubtedly one of the best ways to deal with nuisance callers is to report them. If you have been contacted in breach of the Telephone Preference Service you can get in touch with them directly. If you're experiencing other issues with nuisance calls, take a note of the number and report them to your phone provider or Ofcom (the overseeing body that deals with this)
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