Mobile users can now send a text to opt out of cold calls

27 May 2016

Mobile phone users can send a text message to opt of unsolicited sales and marketing calls from today.

The new service, which has been launched by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and regulator Ofcom, enables mobile users to add their number to the UK’s official ‘do not call’ database.

It’s illegal for companies to cold call numbers registered with the TPS unless they have a person’s consent to do so.

Yet currently, only 2.9 million mobile numbers (around 3%) are registered on the TPS database, compared with 18.5 million landline numbers (around 85%).

However, registering with the TPS does not prevent spam text messages. See below for how to beat these.

To get on the TPS register, you just need to text: TPS, followed by your email address, and send it to 78070.  

Texts are free to send for most as it should be included in your mobile bundle. However, some may be charged a standard message rate by their operator, depending on their contract. This is likely to be the case for pay-as-you-go users or those who've already used up their monthly text allowance. Your email address is needed to verify your identity, should you need to make a complaint.

Once you’ve done this, you should notice a gradual reduction in unsolicited sales and marketing calls after a few days, although it can take up to 28 days for the service to become fully effective.

A study commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office found that people registered with the TPS saw a reduction in the monthly volume of live sales or marketing calls received of around a third (31%).

John Mitchison, head of the TPS, says: “Rogue callers operate illegally and against the interests of ordinary people. Texting will make it easier for people to register their mobile numbers on the TPS, which is the only official no-call list, and help us stamp out rogue callers once and for all by giving the Information Commissioner more ammunition to prosecute these cases.”


Nuisance calls can be ‘harmful’

Peter Tutton, head of policy at StepChange Debt Charity, says Ofcom and the TPS haven’t gone far enough.

He says: “This new service is another important step towards curbing nuisance calls and it should provide a welcome boost to the number of people signing up to the Telephone Preference Service. However, TPS will only truly be effective if people are automatically registered and need to opt-in to receiving marketing calls.
“For some people nuisance calls are just an annoyance, but for many others they are harmful. Our previous research has shown that these calls are widespread, frequent and leave some people afraid to answer their phone.”

How Moneywise can help

The modern imposition of cold-callers requires a modern defence. Moneywise columnist Jasmine Birtles has plenty to say about taking revenge on cold callers.

Anyone with a pension is a target for scammers – so read Moneywise editor’s blog about the three words that cold-callers are most likely to use.

Plus, the Financial Conduct Authority has this week warned in its new ScamSmart campaign that the over 55s are a particular target for investment scams. Always go by the rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to beat cold callers

As well as registering with the TPS, Ofcom recommends the following tips to beat cold callers:

  1. Be careful who you give your contact details to, whether it's online, on the phone, or in person.
  2. Look carefully at any marketing ‘opt-in' and ‘opt-out' boxes, which are often buried in the small print. If you don't pay attention to them, you could find yourself inadvertently agreeing to be contacted by companies you don't recognise.
  3. If someone rings and asks for financial information over the phone, such as your account details or PIN number, don't provide it.
  4. Talk to your phone provider to see what privacy services are available, and consider a call-blocker – though be aware, you may need to pay for these services.
  5. If you receive a live telesales call, an automated marketing message, or a spam text message, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office. If you receive a silent call, or an abandoned call - where the call is terminated when you pick up and you instead get an automated information message - you can complain to Ofcom.
  6. If you get a spam text message, report it to your mobile network operator by forwarding the text to 7726. These can also be reported to the ICO.

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