Cold shoulder to cold callers


75% of people think cold-calls should be banned. The consumer group Which? questioned 2,092 people, 25% of whom had felt intimidated by these calls. With the estimation that the average consumer receives 6 cold-calls a month, it’s no wonder the majority are fed up to the back teeth.

Unlike doorstep, telephone cold-calling is rather ambiguous. You can’t just put a sign up, and although households can ask to be taken off business’ databases, ringing round is, understandably, viewed as being a rather daunting and time-consuming task.

Although it is not obviously an act of trespass for somebody to cause another person’s telephone to ring, and for that person to hear his or her voice down the line. Conceivably, such an action could fall under the tort of nuisance. The law of tort, being largely judge-made, would need to be altered (this would be largely up to the judiciary to do) to cover telephone calls.

Like a doorstep, a telephone does invite people to call. However, this could be made negative by the electronic equivalent of a “no cold-callers” notice. It is up to the telecom providers, under demand from customers, to facilitate this. For example, a recorded voice could say “no cold-callers”.

But how would this be enforced? With doorstep cold-calling, the owner of the property can lawfully use reasonable and proportionate force to propel the uninvited caller back to the street.

The electronic equivalent of this is hanging-up. But neither stops the call in the first place. Injunctions would be the obvious remedy, but they’re expensive. Therefore, what is required, as opposed to simply banning, is for the telecom providers, acting in concert (they act together anyway to link their networks), to devise and offer a contractual and electronic equivalent.