It's possible to slam the metaphorical door in the face of junk mail, calls, faxes, texts and emails in minutes. Sadly, illegal marketers are much tougher to tackle.
But, with a few basic steps and our free, Trading Standards-approved, "No Cold Callers" sign, you can attempt to block out those desperately trying to flog you stuff. Here's some more info...
In this guide
It is illegal for a UK firm to call any individual who has indicated they don't want sales calls.
If you don't want to receive marketing calls, join the Telephone Preference Service register. Once registered, it takes about 28 days for calls to be stopped, including live calls.
Web: TPS Online. It may also stop distressing calls intended for a deceased relative.
Phone: 0345 070 0707
Will this stop every call?
TPS won't stop all calls. It's a register, not an automatic blocking device. Companies have a legal requirement to check if your number's on it, to establish if it's allowed to call you.
However if you're being plagued by competition calls, then sometimes these come from random number generators which call lots of numbers in the hope that some get through. The best thing to do is write the caller's number down and complain to the regulator PhonepayPlus to get it blocked.
Sadly, the TPS won't stop automated messages. If you're receiving recorded messages and you haven't given prior permission for these, you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on 0303 123 1113. Try to give it as much info as you can, including the name of the organisation (if you've got it), the number the call came from, the date and time of the call, and what they were trying to sell.
What about overseas calls?
It's also possible you'll receive commercial calls from companies based outside the UK. If the cold callers are representing a UK based company but are calling from abroad, they should comply with UK law. But if not, little can be done to stop these as they don't acknowledge the TPS register, and they can be annoying and frustrating.
The best thing to do is not engage in a discussion. Some MoneySavers suggest leaving the phone on then going out to mow the lawn - forcing the company's costs up. See ideas and discuss Ways to stop overseas sales calls in the forum.
Another way to avoid sales calls at home is to set up a free VOIP phone number. Read MoneySaver Thenotsowyzewun's short guide on How to avoid nuisance calls.
It's also worth reporting the calls to ICO anyway, as they might be able to do something about it.
Is it worth paying to block calls?
No, never. There are cases of companies setting themselves up with names similar to "Telephone Preference Service" and offering to block marketing calls for a fee.
There's no need to pay. Do it right and it's ALWAYS free. If you get a call from someone asking for personal details or payment to complete a registration, hang up and inform your local Trading Standards office or report it to Action Fraud.
If you're getting silent calls, which can be generated by automatic equipment in call centres, register with the SilentCall-Gard service. You must renew it every 12 months.
It adds you to a database used by the major telemarketing firms and makes clear you don't want to be contacted, so should cut the number of silent calls.
If the calls continue, you can complain to Ofcom, which can fine companies. Here's what to do:
After the call, dial 1471 and see if you can get the number.
Complain to Ofcom online. The regulator fined phone and broadband provider TalkTalk £750,000 for plaguing customers with silent and abandoned calls. See the TalkTalk fined £750,000 MSE News story for full info.
There are two different types of junk mail: letters with your name and address on, or those without but still distributed by Royal Mail. Both can be stopped, and if the letters have your name on it, you've got the right to tell the organisation to stop sending them to you. If you write to the company, once they receive your letter, they must stop sending you the unwanted mail. There's other ways to stop junk mail too.
Addressed mail through the post
All members of the Direct Marketing Association agree to a code of practice not to send junk mail to any individual who has indicated they don't want it.
To stop the junk, simply join the Mail Preference Service register. It takes up to four months for the service to take full effect, although you should notice a reduction in mail before then.
Web: The easiest way is MPS Online.
Phone: 0207 291 3310
Unaddressed leaflets and mail
Other common types of junk are leaflets, flyers and other unaddressed post delivered by Royal Mail. You can opt out of these, but it will affect all unaddressed items. It takes about six weeks for the items to stop arriving, and should last for two years. You'll need to opt out again after this.
Post: Freepost RSTR-YCYS-TGLJ, Royal Mail Door to Door Opt Outs, Kingsmead House, Oxpens Road, Oxford, OX1 1AA.
Email: email@example.com and you'll then be sent a form.
Phone: 0345 774 0740
Web: Door-to-door opt out
For door-to-door leaflet drops, some MoneySavers have suggested using nifty website Online-Sign to create your own sign.
There's nothing more frustrating than people knocking on your door when you don't want to be sold things. Remember, you don't have to let them in.
To help, we've designed a free-to-print, Trading Standards-approved "no cold callers" sign. While the print-out is colour, it's designed for easy printing in black and white too.
It may be a criminal offence
Guidance we've had from Trading Standards says ignoring a sticker may be a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. While it's not been tested in court, a QC agrees with this so we've added it to our sign. If they knock when they shouldn't, there can be no argument.
Where to stick it?
The best place is on your front door, but as it's a print-out, the colour may run. Tape over the small one, or put it in a clear plastic folder and stick that up. Or if you’ve glass doors, stick it on the inside to protect from the elements.
No charities or religious groups either... MSE's special No Cold Callers sign
When we polled MoneySavers, a huge 42% said charities think no cold caller signs don't apply to them, and 39% religious groups too.
If you don't want 'em either, we've special MSE No Cold Caller signs. If they knock and you open the door, just point at the sign before politely closing it. Note though, these aren't Trading Standards-approved, as they aren't traders.
Get the MSE sign:
What to do if they keep knocking
It may be a criminal offence for traders (not charities or religious groups) to ignore cold calling signs under the regulations on our sign.
Energy mis-selling on people's doorsteps has been rife - you might have seen some of the big six energy suppliers in the headlines having been charged massive fines. For more info see our Energy Mis-selling guide.
Changing supplier on your doorstep is actually the worst way to switch energy - do it right via MSE's Free Cheap Energy Club comparison. Not only does it find your best deal, it monitors your tariff to tell you when to switch again, if a cheaper tariff emerges in future.
Doorstep energy selling should be less of an issue now. In 2010, after pressure from Trading Standards, the big six energy companies agreed their salespeople would not knock on doors with 'no cold callers' signs.
So if the cold caller persists, note down their name and employee number and report them to the company. You may be able to get compensation.
Buy something when a salesperson calls at your home and the Consumer Contracts Regulations mean you have a 14-day cooling off period on all goods you buy over £42.
If you want to cancel, you're entitled to get any money back, including a deposit, after which you need to return any goods in reasonable condition (although you may need to pay for the return delivery).
Similar rights are available for buying online or by phone. See the Consumer Rights guide.
Remember, you don't have to let them in.
Ask to see the salesperson's official ID and find out exactly where they're from.
Don't sign anything, even if they're only offering a quote.
A trader must advise you in writing that you can cancel any contract. If they don't, they can't hold you to anything in the contract.
These are less of a plague than they used to be as faxes aren't as common these days. But you can opt out of junk here yet again, with (you've probably guessed the name now) the Fax Preference Service register. It takes about 28 days after registering for all to be stopped.
Web: The easiest way is FPS Online.
Phone: 0345 070 0702
Try using a PC-based fax machine instead
Programs such as eFax and Faxtastic allow you to receive faxes via your PC. Both give you a special number and your faxes are converted into emails, so even if it is junk there's no need to print it out. These companies hope you'll upgrade to their paid software, which allow you to send faxes.
With the free versions, the number people have to fax you on is an 0870/1/2 number, which can be costly from some providers. Normally we rail against these (see the Say No To 0870 guide), yet as this provides a service, it works well. However, do let non-junk sending people know the cost, as effectively they're subsidising your free fax machine.
Also, to keep Faxtastic active you must receive at least one fax in the first seven days of opening an account, and at least one every 90 days thereafter, or you'll lose the allocated fax number and will have to re-register.
Spam texts are a modern scourge, plaguing our mobile phones with unwanted adverts, often from dodgy companies. But you can fight back, report them, and minimise the number you get.
There are three main types, and the way you deal with each is different. We've done some hardcore research into it, and have a full separate guide to help you in Stop Spam Texts.
"How can I stop spam?" is a million-dollar question which, sadly, has no million-dollar answer. There isn't really a solution that works perfectly.
Think carefully about how much you block
Blocking spam is a balance. There are many software packages that help to do it, but ultimately it's a trade off between losing legitimate emails (like the Martin's Money Tips weekly email!) if they're incorrectly filtered, or keeping more emails and having to manually delete spam.
Spammers are often one step ahead of the game, making it very difficult to keep a lid on. Remember, spam works. Someone, somewhere is clicking on it - even if it's just one person in a million, it may mean a spammer makes money.
The best way to start deleting spam is by using the tools available from your own email provider; spam filters and rules are reasonably effective at blocking spam. You can discuss tips with other MoneySavers in the Techie Stuff forum board.
Even if you do everything listed above, it won't be a foolproof solution to junk calls and mail. Yet it's still well worth trying - registering for these services should still reduce the calls and junk mail you receive and it definitely won't increase them.
One good thing: if you're still receiving junk after registering, you know these companies are breaking the law, so they're probably not worth dealing with anyway.
Do remember, though: if you've personally signed up to receive mailings via email or when buying something, you'll have to block these individually.
You may be surprised to read this, but it's important to say. Unlike phone messages where it's all a load of ridiculous nonsense, junk mail can sometimes work in your favour.
A lot of best buy financial products, such as credit cards, are often only available if you receive them as targeted direct mailings. Yet it's only worth keeping this channel open if you're money-savvy and can sort out the wheat from the chaff.