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:
In 2013, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Ofcom launched an action plan to tackle the harm to consumers caused by nuisance calls and messages. Our most recent annual update, published in March 2019, set out our areas of focus:
Our May 2020 update reports on the progress made in each of the areas listed over the last 12 months and highlights how our collaborative efforts are making a positive difference to consumers.
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.