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Nuisance Phone Calls

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2015

4. What discussions he has had with his ministerial colleagues and the claims management regulator on tackling nuisance phone calls. (907365)

Tackling nuisance calls is a priority for the coalition and I welcome my hon. Friend’s interest in the subject. We are working closely with colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to reduce the irritation and distress they cause. Our Department’s claims management regulator has worked with industry and consumer groups as part of the nuisance calls taskforce. It published some recommendations on 8 December, which we believe will help reduce unwanted calls and texts, and we are actively considering which we can soonest implement.

One of those recommendations is that the Government should introduce new legislation to hold to account directors of companies that blatantly flout the law on making nuisance telephone calls. What progress has the Minister made on implementing that particular recommendation?

There are three specific issues on the table. The first is what we did in December, which allows for new, tough financial penalties on companies—by which I mean companies as a whole—that break the rules. The second is the proposal that we have consulted on and are about to respond to, which would lower the threshold at which enforcement action can be taken and produce a fine of up to £500,000, which should be a deterrent. The issue of holding individual company members to account is more complex and will not be the first of the two things we do.

The claims management regulator is often held up as the model for how to limit the number of nuisance calls due to the way in which the number of payment protection insurance call numbers has been reduced. However, recent discussions I have had with the Association of British Insurers indicate that it may not be working quite as planned. Will the Minister commit to a meeting as soon as possible to review whether the process is working as well as possible?

I recognise my hon. Friend’s assiduous work on this issue and I am very happy to pick up on the issue that the claims management regulation unit may not be as effective in practice as we believe it is in theory. We are determined to protect the public. Nuisance phone calls and nuisance texts, particularly to the vulnerable, are unacceptable. They must be dealt with and we will do that with my hon. Friend’s help.