Ofcom recently published its guide on protecting yourself from nuisance calls and messages and they asked us for a guest blog to help promote it.
As we’re running a campaign on the harm caused by this menace we were more than happy to oblige.
Want to know more? You can get involved in our campaign here.
We’ve all been there – up to our eyes in work, in the middle of making dinner or trying to stop World War III breaking out between the kids, when the phone starts ringing.
But while you might not begrudge rushing to pick up for friends or family, it’s a different story if it turns out to be someone offering you something you don’t want or need.
These calls can be a real nuisance, but there are steps you can take to cut down the number you receive.
Prevention versus cure
For a start, you should always be careful who you give your contact details to.
When you need to provide them, for example when you buy something, enter a competition, or use a price comparison website, make sure you look carefully at the marketing “opt-in” or “opt-out” boxes.
Sometimes these boxes can be buried in the small print and are often found near the part where a signature is required.
Opt in or opt out
It can be confusing but generally, an “opt-in” box refers to a box which, if ticked, confirms that you are agreeing to be contacted by the company or other companies (known as “third parties” or “trusted parties”).
With an “opt-out” box you are agreeing to be contacted, unless you tick the box. Look out for phrases such as “tick here to opt-out” or, if you’re online, pop up boxes inviting you to receive a company’s newsletter.
And to make it even more tricky – there may also be a pre-ticked box asking you to ‘untick’ if you do not want to be contacted. Take time to read these options and be sure you know what you are agreeing to, taking care to tick or untick as needed.
If you do not want to receive unsolicited marketing calls, you can register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This helps to prevent calls from companies who you have not given consent to You can register your phone number – either landline or mobile – online at or by phoning 0845 070 0707. It’s free to register and takes up to 28 days to come into effect.
The TPS is the only official register for opting out of unsolicited live telesales calls. It is a legal requirement that telemarketers do not call a number registered to the TPS. However, registering with the TPS won’t stop all unwanted calls. Firms may still call you if you’ve previously given permission for them to contact you by phone. To stop these calls, contact the firm in question (preferably in writing) and ask them not to call you for marketing purposes.
There are also various products and services that can help block nuisance calls, although you may need to pay to use them. You can, for example, buy a handset that will allow you to block or screen calls.
These may block particular types of call (such as international calls, or calls where the number has been withheld) or a selected list of around 10 numbers, so check that the one you buy does what you want it to do.
You need to ensure that you are able block the calls you want to block and nothing else.
You can also talk to your phone provider about the services they offer, such as anonymous call rejection or incoming call blocking. Different providers have different charges and so you may wish to shop around for the best deal that suits your particular needs. Find out more information on these services.
You may also want to consider a call blocker.
These are devices which you can attach to your phone, or which may already be part of a phone which can be used to block different types of call. Some ask the caller to give their name before the call is put through to you. Before you decide on, activate or install these products, carefully read the instructions to make sure they won’t block calls you want to receive.
For more help and information – included illustrated examples of “opt-in” and “opt-out” boxes, check out the Ofcom’s guide on Protecting yourself from nuisance calls and messages.
It also includes advice on what to do when you receive nuisance calls and messages, including details of who to complain to and how to do it.