Mobile phone users plagued by annoying marketing and sales calls can now send a text to join a register that makes unwanted calls to your number illegal – but while it's free for many, some people may be charged to use the service.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) has been running for a number of years, but according to communications regulator Ofcom only 48% of the people it surveyed knew that mobile numbers can be registered on the TPS (compared with 88% who knew about home phone numbers being eligible).
The 'text-to-register' service, launched today by the TPS and Ofcom, allows you to add your mobile number to the UK's official 'do not call' database by texting 'TPS' and your email address (which is required to verify your identity, should you need to make a complaint) to 78070.
While this is good news in the sense it means you'll no longer receive cold calls from more reputable companies who follow the rules, it's unlikely to deter rogue firms who use computer systems to churn out countless automated calls.
For more info on how to stop spam calls to your mobile or home phone, see our dedicated Stop Cold Callers guide.
How does the text-to-register system work?
To register, simply text 'TPS' followed by your email address to 78070. You'll receive a text reply from the TPS confirming your number has been successfully added to its database.
Once you've registered you should notice a gradual reduction in unsolicited sales and marketing voice calls after a few days, although it can take up to 28 days for the service to become fully effective.
A study commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found people registered with the TPS saw a reduction in the monthly volume of 'live' sales or marketing calls received of about a third (31%).
It's worth mentioning though that registering with the TPS doesn't prevent spam text messages. Have a look at our 'Stop Spam Texts' guide for more on this.
What will it cost to opt out by text?
For most, the text should be included within your text bundle – ie, you shouldn't have to pay anything extra. However, some users may be charged between 8p and 15p to send the text, regardless of whether or not they're in the monthly text allowance of their bundle.
Frustratingly, Ofcom and the TPS aren't clear on exactly who will and won't be charged – they initially announced the service was "free", then issued a correction saying: "Some users may be charged a standard message rate by their operator, depending on their contract".
From anecdotal reports we've had from users it appears some EE, O2, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone customers are being charged to use the service, while Three customers don't appear to be – we'll update this story when we have a fuller picture. The TPS is asking for customers who have been charged to get in touch. If you're affected, you can also let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What else is being done to clamp down on nuisance callers?
There are currently 2.9 million mobile numbers registered on the TPS database, which may sound a lot, but it's only about 3% of the total number of mobile phones in the country.
In contrast there are 18.5 million landline numbers registered (around 85%).
By introducing the text-to-register process, the TPS and Ofcom hope to raise awareness of the preference service among mobile users and drive registrations.
This comes against a backdrop of increased action against nuisance callers, such as the introduction of hefty fines for cold callers who hide behind withheld numbers.
Meanwhile, in April last year rules were brought in that mean customers no longer have to prove that unwanted marketing calls are causing substantial distress and damage to escalate a complaint.
What else can I do to counter nuisance calls?
As well as registering with the TPS, you can tackle nuisance calls and texts in other ways.
- Be careful who you give your contact details to, whether online, via phone, or in person.
- Look carefully at any marketing 'opt-in' and 'opt-out' boxes. These boxes are often buried in the small print. If you don't pay attention to them, you could find yourself inadvertently agreeing to being contacted by companies you don't recognise.
- If someone rings and asks for financial information over the phone, such as your account details or PIN, don't provide it.
- Talk to your phone provider to see what privacy services are available, and consider a call-blocker – though be aware, you may need to pay for these services.
- If you receive a nuisance call or message, make a complaint. Complaint information helps regulators take action against companies acting unlawfully. If the call is a live telesales call, an automated marketing message or a spam text message, complain to the ICO. You can report spam texts to your mobile network operator by simply forwarding the text to 7726. If you receive a silent or abandoned call, complain to Ofcom.