Angus Council’s deputy leader has laid bare the misery being suffered by the county’s constituents at the hands of nuisance callers.
David Fairweather said the plague of unwanted calls can no longer be tolerated and he has called for significantly increased fines in a bid to disconnect nuisance callers.
The Arbroath councillor spoke out after being bombarded by horror stories from residents.
The shameful episodes include one dying woman who was bed-bound being “harassed” by nuisance calls in the final months of her life to the point where she was reduced to tears and frightened to answer the phone.
He said: “It is frankly outrageous that customers are spending hundreds of pounds on equipment and call screening services, simply to try to get peace and quiet in their own home.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office said there were 11,774 concerns reported about nuisance calls and messages in May – a 53% increase on April.
Mr Fairweather is now calling for greater efforts to be made in stamping out nuisance telephone calls, especially those affecting elderly or vulnerable people.
He said “One person received three nuisance calls in one morning, while another said he was furious that in the final year or so of his mother’s life, she was essentially harassed by nuisance calls.
“These were not just from the shady companies touting window or boiler scrappage schemes.
“One was a well-known national home improvement firm.
“It took the intervention of Trading Standards to stop the latter pestering her.
“Angus Council has done a considerable amount of work on this, and I commend the efforts of organisations such as Which for their role in highlighting the issue.
“I am also aware that work is being done at Scottish and UK Government level, but a lot more must be done.”
The ICO has 178 cases under investigation, and one firm received a record fine of £400,000 after making almost 100 million unsolicited marketing calls.
Mr Fairweather said: “I would like to see significantly increased fines imposed on companies and directors who engage in nuisance calls, because at the moment, I am not convinced the fines are a deterrent.
“I also believe that it must be made easier for people to report these calls, and I would like to see telecom companies be more proactive in stopping nuisance calls and protecting vulnerable people.
“With an ageing demographic, and increasing levels of dementia, it is vital that measures to stop nuisance calls are accelerated.
“We cannot tolerate this any longer.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office can at present only impose fines up to £500,000 on business.
In 2016/17, the ICO had its busiest year for nuisance calls issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923 million for unwanted marketing.
The previous record was in February 2016, when the Prodial, a lead generation company, was ordered to pay £350,000 for making 46 million nuisance calls.