Nuisance calls: phone services that can help

Phone companies offer a number of services that can help protect against nuisance calls.

Caller display

Caller display shows you the number presented by the person calling (if the number has not been withheld and you have a phone with a display), so you can choose whether to answer.

Caller display information is also important because it enables consumers to report nuisance calls to Ofcom and other regulators, and helps handsets and services that rely on the telephone number to help block and filter calls to work effectively.

However, consumers using caller display to identify callers should be aware that the number presented may not be the actual number of the person calling, due to ‘spoofing’, or the deliberate manipulation of telephone numbers without authorisation.

Incoming call blocking/filtering

Incoming call blocking services can help tackle nuisance or unwanted calls by preventing selected numbers from getting through.

Examples of these include:

BT Call Protect

BT Call Protect is a free, network-based call-filtering service available to BT residential customers. Once activated, the service allows users to send certain calls to a junk voicemail box. These can include calls from BT’s blacklist of nuisance callers, calls from a blacklist created by the customer, and certain call types (such as withheld or international). Customers can retrieve any messages left in the voicemail box at their convenience.

Sky Talk Shield

Sky Talk Shield is a free, network-based call-screening service available to Sky Talk customers. Once activated, the service screens all calls to the customers’ landline by asking callers to identify themselves. When customers answer their phone, they will hear a recording of the caller’s name, and decide whether to add the caller to their ‘star list’ or ‘block list’. After doing this, calls from numbers on the star list will get through without screening, and calls from numbers on the block list will not get through without the customer’s phone ringing . Automated calls will never get through as they cannot respond to the initial screening.

Anonymous call rejection

Scammers or some callers making unsolicited or nuisance marketing calls may try to hide their identity by withholding their number.

Anonymous call rejection allows you to block calls from people who withhold their number.

Last caller identification or 1471

Where a nuisance call has been received, dialling 1471 immediately afterwards can help identify the number of the last caller (unless the caller has withheld their number).

Once the number has been obtained using 1471, you can call the number back and request not to be contacted in the future, or report the number to the relevant regulator.

Voicemail or 1571 (standard and enhanced services)

A voicemail service allows you to screen certain calls and choose whether to return the call once you’ve listened to the message.

Some providers also offer an enhanced voicemail service. This includes features such as remote access, allowing you to listen to messages from a device other than your landline.

How much do they cost?

In some cases, these services are free. In other instances, monthly charges can apply and may vary depending on which package you’re signed up to. Charges from the seven landline providers are set out below.

 Caller Display (See who is calling you before you answer)1471 (Get the number of the last person who called)Standard 1571 voicemail (Listen to voicemail messages by dialling 1571)Enhanced 1571 voicemail (additional features such as remote access)Incoming Call blocking (Block selected numbers from getting through) 1Anonymous Call Rejection (Stop calls from withheld or anonymous numbers)Call Protect (Using network data and customers’ personal lists to divert nuisance calls, before they ring, into a junk mail box 1572).
BT£1.75 or free with a 12 month contract2Free£2.25£4.25£4.75£5.80BT Call Protect (for BT customers - free)
KCOMFreeFreeN/A£1.02 or Free4£2.507£1 or Free7N/A
Post OfficeFreeFreeFree£2.55£3.42£4.08N/A
SkyFreeFree£1£2.50£3.35£4.00Sky Talk Shield (for Sky Talk customers - free)
Talk TalkFreeFreeFree£2.55FreeFreeN/A
Virgin Media£2.25FreeFree£2.25Not available8£2.70N/A

The prices listed are per month. The CPs shown above are those with a relevant market share above 1% or with a universal service obligation to ensure that basic fixed line telecoms services are available at an affordable price to citizens across the UK (BT and KC). There are other communications providers offering the same or similar services. When choosing a provider consumers should also consider them and check their provision of the relevant services and the charges. Consumers who are a customer of another provider should check their services and charges.
For ease of comparison Ofcom has used a generic name and description for each of the services offered by the communications providers listed. Whilst the services are broadly comparable there may be slight differences in the way the services operate and the features they offer. Consumers should therefore check the precise nature of the service with the provider directly. 

Information correct as of 30 January 2017

1.-Blocks up to 10 numbers, unless specified otherwise
2.-Caller display is free on request with a 12 month line rental contract or charged at £1.75 per month.  Customers on the BT Basic/ Home Phone Saver tariff will receive BT Privacy with Caller Display without charge.
3.-Anonymous Call Reject is only available as part of EE’s Calling features pack. This is charged at £3 per month and also includes Call Divert & Call Waiting.
4.- KC’s charge of £1.02 for caller display applies to consumers on the Light User Scheme and KC Local tariff. For all other tariffs, including their Social Access Package, the service is free.
5.-The charge of £1.02 for 1571 enhanced voicemail applies to the Light User Scheme, KC Local and Social Access Package.
6.-No limit on the number of incoming calls that can be blocked
7.-Anonymous caller reject is free for customers on the Social Access Package, KC Anytime, KC Home Xtra and KC Home Unlimited. The £1 charge applies to all other KC talk and bundle tariffs.
8.-This service is not available to Virgin Media’s cable customers.

Other services

Communications providers may also offer other services to help you tackle nuisance calls. Some providers offer a dedicated nuisance calls team to provide advice and assistance. Other providers may supply these services through their customer services teams.

Telephones or call blocker units that can be programmed to screen unwanted calls are also available. These can be purchased from retailers as well as from some phone companies directly. You should check to see if you will need to sign up to a caller display service to use the handset effectively.

If you have concerns about nuisance calls you should speak to your provider (or prospective provider) to find out about any other available services.

Read more about nuisance calls.

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