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New rules on caller ID come into force in May

April 25 2016
New rules preventing direct marketing companies from hiding or disguising their phone numbers when making unsolicited marketing calls have been confirmed today by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 

The rules, which were mooted in an announcement at the start of the year and went to consultation in January and February, will come into force on Monday 16 May. They apply to all UK-registered companies, even if their call centres are based abroad.

Making the announcement, Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister for data protection, said:

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

“Government is committed to tackling this problem, which is why we are making it easier for consumers to report companies by forcing them to display their phone numbers.

“We’re sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.

The change in legislation is intended to make it easier for consumers to take action against unwanted calls, and for the ICO to track down and fine rogue marketing firms who flout the rules.

ICO Head of Enforcement Steve Eckersley said:

“Any change that makes it easier for us to track down and take action against companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause.

“We do investigate unscrupulous companies who hide their identities, and we can track them down, but it certainly makes our job more difficult. And when people are able to identify the number behind the call they’ve received, they’re more likely to complain to us and that means we’re more able to take action.”

The move follows backing from consumers, regulators and industry, including representatives of the Ethical Marketing Charter, in responses to the government’s consultation.

The ICO has issued fines amounting to £2m since new rules came into force in April 2015 which reduced the burden of proof to ‘serious breach of the regulations’ rather than having to prove ‘substantial damage’ or ‘substantial distress’.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said:

“This time last year we promised that these changes would make a difference, and they have.

“The law change put forward today around caller ID is another step forward. We know that people are more likely to complain to us when they can see the number behind the call they’ve received.

“Those complaints inform many of our investigations, lead to fines and, ultimately, stop the calls.” 

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Parliamentary support

“The Ethical Marketing Charter is to be warmly congratulated. It has thrown down the gauntlet to achieve high ethical standards and hopefully other firms are up to the challenge.”

Philip Hollobone MP, Conservative MP for Kettering

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