Tackling nuisance calls and messages
There are various different types of nuisance calls and messages, with the main ones being, live telesales calls, spam texts, automated marketing calls, abandoned and silent calls.
Regulatory responsibility for tackling nuisance calls spans a number of organisations.
However, the primary responsibilities fall to Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Specifically:
- The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) takes the lead in tackling live telesales calls, automated marketing message calls and spam texts. It also has responsibility for maintaining the list of telephone numbers of people and businesses that wish to opt out of receiving unsolicited live marketing calls or unsolicited marketing faxes. The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) maintains those registers on behalf of ICO. The ICO is responsible for taking enforcement action to ensure that direct marketing calls are not made to telephone numbers included on the TPS register without prior consent
- Ofcom focuses on abandoned and silent calls.
Since 2013, the ICO and Ofcom have published joint action plans to tackle the harm to consumers caused by nuisance calls and messages. In May 2020 we set out our key areas of focus in tackling nuisance calls including:
- Taking targeted action against people or companies that are not following the ICO’s and Ofcom’s rules.
- Raising awareness of and tackling Coronavirus (Covid-19) scams and continuing to support the work of Stop Scams UK.
- Working with telecoms companies to improve how they disrupt and prevent nuisance calls, by reviewing solutions made available to customers by their provider.
- Working with other regulators and enforcement agencies to identifying new opportunities to prevent nuisance calls and scams.
- Sharing intelligence with others, including international partners and enforcement agencies.
Our March 2021 update reports on the progress made in each of the areas listed over the last 10 months and highlights how our collaborative efforts are making a positive difference to consumers.
Nuisance calls panel research
Ofcom’s regular research into nuisance calls measures the frequency of the nuisance calls UK consumers receive on their home landline phone. We gather real-time data about these types of calls, including the date, time and duration of nuisance calls, and a full description of the experience; i.e. the company/person calling, what the call was about, and whether the caller’s telephone number was identifiable.
Ofcom conducts tracker omnibus surveys. Ofcom asks participants to report, for a four-week period prior to the survey, their experience of nuisance calls received on their landline and/or mobile phones. Currently, Ofcom conducts this research three times a year, in January, May, and September. The reports are published on our annual statistical release calendar.
Ofcom has powers under sections 128 to 130 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”) to take action, including issuing financial penalties, against anyone who persistently misuses an electronic communications network or service in any way that causes or is likely to cause unnecessary annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety.
Ofcom is required to set out a general policy on how we are likely to use these powers and to have regard to that policy when exercising them. We published a statement of our general policy in December 2016 (PDF, 226.7 KB) which applies from 1 March 2017.
We also have an ongoing monitoring and enforcement investigation programme into the harm caused by abandoned and silent calls, and publish updates on our formal enforcement work in the Competition and Consumer Enforcement Bulletin.
Ofcom has established a Memorandum of Understanding with major communications providers. This sets out a framework for voluntary co-operation on technical measures between the participating organisations, including how they will work together to achieve the common goal of reducing the impact of unlawful nuisance calls on consumers.
Nuisance Calls (Technical Measures) Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (PDF, 128.4 KB)
Last updated 11 May 2023