Thursday 10 October 2013

Rabbits and lettuce

Yesterday, a group of AMs discussed the question of unwanted callers, particularly in the context of the old and vulnerable. Their concern was primarily around the element of scam and fraud of which many of the callers - whether in person or by telephone are guilty.

I’ve posted previously on the pernicious nuisance calls which I receive regularly when I’m working at home.  It goes wider than the Windows support scams, though. I also suffer regularly from the ones which leave recorded messages on my answerphone, but which never name the company nor leave any contact details.  Leaving me a recorded message telling me that I must press 9 to stop the calls is singularly unhelpful – even if I were to believe that it would actually have any effect anyway.
These calls are a real nuisance, and particularly so for the elderly and vulnerable who are at serious risk of being taken for a ride.  I find them a nuisance, and I don’t think I’m in either category - yet. It’s not easy to determine which calls are honest and which are not, although I start from the simple supposition that any organisation which chooses to ignore or attempt to circumvent TPS rules is unlikely to fall into the ‘totally honest’ category. 
I recently came across this report on the whole issue commissioned from GFK–NOP by Ofcom.  In principle I welcome any attention being given to this problem; we need to shine a bit of light on a murky part of our entrepreneurial sales based economy.
The report lists different types of calls indicating the proportion that fall into different categories.  One of those categories is “other” and this is the one into which “surveys” fall.  “Surveys” is a neat way of circumventing the TPS rules, because they’re not actually selling anything - according to them.  Some of them do, however, pass the details they collect on to other companies who will then try and sell you something.  And those companies can semi-legitimately claim that the TPS rules do not apply because by completing a survey you’ve agreed to be contacted.  A neat circumvention – the best response is never to answer any surveys; which is my standard response.
It’s a pity however that the report from GFK-NOP doesn’t really get to grips with the international callers, one of the big loop holes in the whole TPS system.  Nor does it name, let alone shame, the miscreants.  I wondered whether that might not be because a number of the "survey" calls that I get – despite having told them a number of times that I never answer surveys – are from a company called GFK-NOP; a company which itself uses an Indian call centre to make some of the calls.
At least nobody can say that Ofcom didn’t commission an expert in the field.  Some of us might think, though, that this particular expert has something of a vested interest in the subject.  I had a boss once who used to talk about never “putting rabbits in charge of lettuce production”.  Using a company which makes nuisance calls to produce a report on the subject sounds not dissimilar.

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