New way to deal with cold callers

I’ve just had another cold-call from one of those idiots from a call centre located a long way to the East. “Hello, I am from Choice UK…”

It’s insulting that they’d be so stupid as to believe anyone would be so stupid as to believe they’re in the UK, or anywhere nearby.  But I found another way to turn the tables – “Prove it.”, I said. When he’d figure out what it meant he asked “How can I do that?”

“If you’re from the UK you can tell me the first line of the National Anthem?”. As usually happens eventually, he hung up.

So what are these people up to? Well, EU Law makes it illegal for companies to cold-call people without their permission. The is implied if there’s a pre-existing business relationship, but cold-calls are out. Great! A law from Brussels that we all like. Except it’s pointless – locate your call centre in Hyderabad and no EU member state can touch you. As a bonus, you can hire a load of cheap local labour to do the calling.

Now these outfits don’t try to sell you anything. To be honest, their English isn’t good enough anyway. What they’re doing is canvassing so they can sell your details on to companies in the UK. One you’ve said “yes” to a question like “Would you like to know how to save money on electricity?”, then, according to their interpretation, you’ve given permission for a UK company to call you with their latest special offer.

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Of course, these are not honest people. They’ll sell your name on whether you said “yes” or “*$^@: Off!” And companies in the UK trying to mount a telephone marketing campaign within the law will buy the data and call you anyway.

I’ve spoken to a few companies buying false data about me (apparently I’ve been seriously injured in a car crash). They trace back to a company called Communication Avenue in Newark on Trent. If you talk to the caller nicely, often they’ll tell you – because remember – they’ve paid someone good money for something they thought was a sales lead and they’re not happy either. Communication Avenue declined to comment (or more precisely, ignored my email and failed to answer the phone). I have now left the matter with the ICO.

BT is powerless to help. So it says. They claim they can’t, technically, block calls from overseas numbers for you. As a “help” they gave me “free” caller-ID, so I could simply not answer foreign numbers. BT the BT caller display telephone didn’t display anything and to add insult to injury, after a year they started charging for it.

So what can be done? The solution to this one IS technical. All it needs is an option to block all calls coming from countries that do not subscribe to, and enforce, EU-wide telecoms regulations – including VoIP gateways. One has to ask why this hasn’t been done, but I dare say the answer is commercial.



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