Tuesday, 23 June 2015

ICO is total waste of time

I am getting a lot of junk calls, and have reported around 5000 calls to the ICO now, and they have chosen not to take any action in relation to these calls.

It seems that even the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman agrees that they do not have to do anything if they don't want to.

What the hell is the point of a law that bans something if NOBODY will take any action on it.

The Ombudsman said I could take civil action, but I know from personal experience a judge will consider the nuisance of calls and emails to be insignificant and not valid as a cause of such action.

Just to give some idea how totally pointless this regulation is, today, we got a call at the office from a company calling themselves Media Planet. Listen (MP3)

The call was to our "press" number, published in one place on our web site, which is where we also make it clear that we are listed in the TPS and that we do not want junk / marketing calls.

To our surprise this is a company that has apparently been in business 12 years and never heard of the TPS - they had no idea that they were meant to check their calls against TPS, and no idea that what they were doing is unlawful (Alex went a tad far saying criminal we think, but that is beside the point).

What is the point of these laws? They are a total and utter waste of time and need fixing.

An incredibly simple change would be to make it possible to take civil action for some minimum amount without justification, e.g £50, just based on the fact that you are the recipient of the nuisance call or email. That would allow civil action to work, and if the ICO really are so inept and uninterested, that would allow some real action on this from people affected. It would not be a burden on the courts as those breaking the rules would soon learn they have no defence, and pay up without need of court action. With any luck they would then change their behaviour.

We also need any contract formed as a result of such a call to be void, allowing people to "play along" in order to identify the caller properly so that they can sue them for the £50.

We need the law fixing!


  1. Good luck with fixing the law.

    We're using the telemarketer bot Lenny. Its combination of "vague enough to fit anything" script and silence detection wastes the time of telemarketers much more effectively than a single file with pauses.

    Not only effective for blocklists, but when we get a call that can't be pre-screened, we ask them to speak to "Leonard, as he can help you with this" and transfer...

  2. If its a criminal law as well, could we perhaps look at a private prosectuition?

    Find one of the big ones, have a "Kickstarter" style campaign to kick of the prosecution and embarras these bozos into doing something.

  3. No point chasing criminal scum, when after years you eventually catch up to them they won't have your money.

    Go after the telcos. Make the UK terminating telco responsible for a £1 charge per TPS-violating call they originate. Don't call it a fine, it's just a "charge", just another cost of doing business.

    Watch then, as by magic telcos who previously swore they had no way to do anything to prevent TPS violations suddenly clamp down on this activity. Because they know exactly who these scum are, it's pure economics. Scumbags agree to pay you £5000 so they can cold call old ladies to scam them. Right now you get £5000, what's not to like? But if that costs you £80 000 in TPS scam "charges" it's a losing proposition, so you don't want that deal any more and the scumbags can't get anyone to give them a phone line. If they get one under false pretences it's shut down within hours, not weeks, because every call costs the provider money and they don't want to lose money.

    1. Much as I agree it would make a difference, telcos are mere conduit, and should remain that way. One thing that may help is a simple way to identify the caller's legal entity via the telco perhaps, so you know exactly who to go after, but that has all sorts of possibility for abuse as well.

    2. Also, sadly, even you idea will simply drive scam calls overseas. The only hope there is that it is normally a UK company "selling" something to UK people and so the actual company instigating the calls are liable (even now). Charging telcos simply won't help when the calls come from outside UK or EU.

    3. What you need at least is the law defining such actions as having joint liability, so they can't play games with shell companies to try to get out of it. $scumbag sells a product, it doesn't matter how long the chain of 'legit' companies is, they're all liable including the person they're selling on behalf of.

    4. > One thing that may help is a simple way to identify the caller's legal entity via the telco perhaps

      Would this work where the telco was merely terminating a call, or only where the telco asked was the one which originated the call (and so may have the subscriber details)?

      I expect most of the major telcos get quite a lot of requests from the ICO (for SMS) and Ofcom (calls) in respect of spam and, today, the ICO raided a call centre allegedly responsible for nuisance calls.

      I am surprised that requiring telcos to engage in more censorship would be the way to go, although I could see a spam-like rating engine for telephone calls, where subscribers could choose which level of rigour they wanted applying to their line, provided that they accepted that setting it at anything other than "allow all calls" might mean they miss a call that they actually want / need.

    5. The overseas thing is actually part of the beauty of my proposal. The UK telco is responsible. Suppose the TPS-violator is in Spain, working through a VoIP deal with a Russian telco who are delivering it to an Australian company and in the end it comes through say, Vodafone UK? Don't care, Vodafone pays £1 for the violation. Suddenly instead of saying there's "nothing they can do" Vodafone becomes intensely interested in this Australian contract that weirdly causes 86% of their TPS-violations, and starts demanding the Australians either pay a LOT more or stop working with scammers. At every level the problem gets pushed down to people who can solve it, because it's costing someone real money to leave it unsolved. Even as an individual telemarketing firm, if the telco pushes the £1 charge to you, suddenly TPS-compliance is a massive money saver essential to your bottom line, not an annoying government regulation you may or may not obey.

    6. At the point of delivery, how does the terminating telco know that the user has not consented to the delivery of that call? I may be wrong, but I would be surprised if there was an appetite to impose strict liability on a telco for something which is beyond its control.

      Or do you plan on sending Adrian a bill every time you get an unwanted email, since AAISP supplies your connectivity?!

  4. and all of a sudden, all phone calls on the major telcos are "whitelist" only...