Nuisance calls are a right pain in the earhole, aren’t they? Us long-suffering Brits receive more than 1.5 billion of them every year. That’s around 75 nuisance calls per household. We’re all much too busy with our crushingly demanding lives to be bothering with some marketing drone wanting to know whether we need loft insulation or own a conservatory.
You can stop a good number of nuisance calls by signing up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). It’s an offence for UK companies to make unsolicited sales and marketing calls to TPS-registered numbers. Trouble is, TPS registration doesn’t stop unsolicited calls made from abroad.
I’m registered with the TPS, but nearly all the nuisance calls I get come from international numbers. And UK legislation doesn’t apply to them. Unless, that is, the calls can be proven to have been made on behalf of a UK company.
One international caller that habitually rings me identifies itself as LRC or Lifestyle Research Centre. The number they call from is 002135371000, which suggests they’re based in Algeria. A quick Google search reveals that this number has been plaguing hundreds of other UK householders.
They’re not a very friendly bunch, LRC, and anything other than full co-operation can reveal an impressive mastery of some of the more colourful aspects of the English language. Of course I refuse to give up any information to them, but I do try to politely play along, with the aim of working out who the devil they’re working for.
At first they offered up generic fake names such as “Sky Dish” or “UK Gas”. Then, eventually, LRC callers began to give up the name Thomas Sanderson. Turns out that’s a UK-based company that sells conservatory shutters and blinds. So it would be useful for them to find out, for example, whether or not I own a bloody conservatory.
Of course, the caller could have plucked the company’s name from the web, or from thin air. This could all just be a big ruddy coincidence. As could the scores of complaints about Thomas Sanderson and nuisance calls that can be found on the web.
I contacted Thomas Sanderson several times for this article, asking the company to clarify whether or not Lifestyle Research Centre was acting on its behalf. No response.
Then Thomas Sanderson rang me, from their UK-based call centre – not to answer my query, but of course to sell me some blinds. When asked why they were making an unsolicited marketing call to a TPS-registered number, the caller claimed (incorrectly) I’d completed a survey conducted by Lifestyle Research Centre - thereby confirming that LRC is working on behalf of Thomas Sanderson.
Both the TPS and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who are responsible for enforcing the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, were quick to confirm to Bitterwallet that nuisance call rules apply to any organisation in the UK, regardless of where the calls are actually being made from.
“The Regulations apply to the instigator (generally the company whose products or services are being promoted) and to the transmitter of calls (person actually making them), so if there is a UK presence responsible for some part of the process the Regulations will usually apply,” the ICO told us.
As Bitterwallet reported last month, companies responsible for nuisance calls can now be fined up to £2 million. So if you’re being plagued by nuisance calls from abroad, the best advice is to try to identify the UK company that the calls are being made on behalf of. You’ll then be in a position to make a complaint – to the company, and then via the TPS. There’s a chance that’ll stop the calls. Just don’t come whingeing to us that no one ever rings you anymore.