Mobile phone users should now be able to dodge irritating cold calls for free by texting the second opt-out number the Telephone Preference Service has launched in a week, after it emerged some were being charged to text the first number. While some users may receive a warning message stating the new number isn't free, the TPS assures us that no charge will be made.
MoneySavingExpert.com reported last Friday that customers of certain network providers – namely O2, EE and Vodafone – were being charged between 8p and 15p to sign up to the 'text-to-register' service, which allows you to add your mobile number to the UK's official 'do not call' database.
Because the service, which was launched in conjunction with Ofcom, was supposed to be free, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) has liaised with network providers and subsequently launched a new free number – 85095 – although the old number – 78070 – (which you may have to pay for) remains in operation.
A TPS spokesperson told us that it's kept the old number active so as not to prevent those people who don't become aware of the free service from registering.
However, despite the launch of the second opt-out service, a number of MSE users have reported seeing a message warning they will be charged for texting the 85095 number.
We contacted the TPS to find out what's going on and were told by its spokesperson that although some network providers still have warning messages in place for certain user groups, customers can rest assured the service is "100% free" for everyone who texts the number. The TPS is working with the various providers to ensure warnings associated with the 85095 number are no longer sent to users.
It's worth remembering though that whichever number you use, registering with the TPS means you'll no longer receive cold calls from more reputable companies who follow the rules, but it's unlikely to deter rogue firms.
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 for free, simply text 'TPS' followed by your email address (which is required to verify your identity, should you need to make a complaint) to 85095. 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 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.
So this time the service is definitely free?
The TPS has said this second service really is completely free to use for everyone. What's more, a few of us here at MSE Towers have tested out the new number, and it does appear to be free.
However, as we found out the first time this service launched, unforeseen issues can arise, so if you find that you have been charged for a text to 85095, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, we've been made aware of a couple of instances where customers have received a warning message that appears to block the free text from being sent. If you encounter this situation the best course of action would be to contact the TPS for assistance.
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.