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16 August 2006

Suing the spammer

I am getting extremely fed up indeed with the large number of unsolicited sales calls I'm getting to my mobile phone and my wife is getting to her phone regarding "upgrading our phone contract". We don't have upgreadable contracts as the tarrif we are on is rental free. Our numbers are on the Telephone Preference Service and have been so for years, and the registrations are still current. Yet, 4 times on Friday she was called. Even more irritating is that usually said companies hide their number (you can't unfortunately ban anonymous calls to a mobile) and when they do present a number you invariably get a standard message with no option to speak to a real person and complain about it.

Until Friday that is. For the moment, I'll keep the details confidential but we received 4 calls from the same number and they didn't hide their details. I called them back to complain and got the standard greeting of "we'lll phone you back again" and no option of speaking to a real person. However, they did give the company's name (I hadn't heard of them). I called said company to complain and they said they would phone me back. They didn't. Then I got through and they gave me some rubbish about even though I'm on the TPS list, I also have a data line and that was the number they were calling. I've confirmed with my telecom operator that I don't have a data line number. 5 days after they were supposed to call me back and explain themselves, I had to call them again for an explanation.

I spoke to someone who gave me the usual rubbish about "we collect our data from various sources but we can't say where we got your details from" blah blah blah. This is an irrelevant point since a TPS listing overrides such lists unless I have explicitly opted in to receive communications and no I don't tick the 3rd party box. In any case, my wife's number isn't used for anything except emergency calls and friends so there's no reason for a company to have it.

I refer said telephone companies to this widely publicised legal case under the same relevant law. Nigel Roberts, like me a Chartered Engineer with a background not only in IT but an interest in legal matters, won £300 damages as a result of that case involving email spam. I feel a test case involving phone spam will be the only thing that will make the industry stop random dialling and annoying people on the "do not call" TPS list. I have been in regular contact with Nigel Roberts following his victory, which used the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003 to sue the spammer. Invariably the phone spam companies also claim that they can't tell me who gave me their details because of the Data Protection Act. Since when was the DPA a device for concealing a crime? Evidently they have never heard of a Norwich Pharmacal order then, just what you need to get round that difficulty.

The real truth is that the phone spammers either don't record where the details come from or are simply indulging in random dialling.

We will see when the supervisor calls me back after I asked the person I spoke to for their company's legal address (well obviously I can get this from the companies house website but at least I've got to speak to a manager this time).

The £300 that Nigel Roberts won would be useful, but it's as much for the publicity that I'm doing this since this would seem to be the only way to get the message to the industry that enough is enough.


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