Press releases

Ground-breaking trading standards investigation targets nuisance calls

In a ground-breaking set of investigations conducted by three Scottish trading standards authorities, the volume of nuisance calls, their effects on the health of the elderly and vulnerable are better understood and the available methods of prevention have been identified - offering a glimmer of hope for pestered residents across Britain.

Angus Council, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire conducted parallel trials earlier this year to establish the severity of the impact felt by elderly and vulnerable residents.

 While it is estimated that across the UK, the average household receives seven nuisance calls a month, it was found that about 40%[1] of the phone calls received by older and vulnerable residents are nuisance calls.

Seventy eight per cent[2] of nuisance calls are made between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, when the general working population are not at home, but the elderly and vulnerable are most likely to be at home during the day meaning they receive a significantly greater amount of calls, even if they are not being deliberately targeted. Combined with the fact that a ringing phone can cause a feeling of urgency, a rushing resident risks a greater change of falls and trips due to unnecessary phone calls. In turn this can lead to people being drained of their ability to be self sufficient, silent calls engendering a fear of crime and worse, losing their money to scammers and even forcing them into care.

 The findings of the study were mirrored across the three councils, revealing the damaging extent that nuisance calls can have on the health, independence and wellbeing of the vulnerable – and it is believed they were being specifically targeted.

Brian Smith, Trading Standards Institute's lead officer for Crime and Disorder and Senior Trading Standards Officer for Angus Council, said: "The impact of nuisance calls can be devastating. For many it is just an annoyance but for the elderly and the vulnerable, it can be insidious and dangerous.

"Organised crime can easily turn cold calling into a tool to allow the deception of vulnerable and elderly people, sometimes even into handing over their life-savings. It is hoped that with a national consciousness of this type of problem combined with the successful call blocking technology revealed in these investigations, we could massively reduce the problem and ease the emotional and financial harm that some of the most vulnerable people in society face."

 It was found that by using new call blocking technology, up to 98%[3] of nuisance calls were blocked leaving residents feeling safer and in greater control of who contacts them.

 In a set of recommendations now being investigated further by the councils, it was suggested that call blocking technology should be installed in all council sheltered housing, and available to vulnerable adults in the community or victims of scams in the same way as community alarms and to further educate residents and consumers generally about the risks of nuisance calls so that they can consider protecting themselves.

 A resident, who's mother trialled the call blocking technology, said: "This has made a huge difference to my mother who as dementia and lives alone. She no longer gets anxious and agitated from PPI, insurance and cold calling calls. I cannot impress on you the positive impact this has made."

 Trading standards urges residents pestered by nuisance calls to follow OFCOM guidance:

  •   Don’t give out your telephone number un-necessarily and tick that you don’t want to be contacted with promotional material etc when signing contracts
  •  Register with the telephone preference service 08450 700707 (will reduce calls but not stop them all)
  • Go ex directory
  • Check the call blocking facilities available from your telephone provider.
  •   Consider buying a call blocker device
  •  Marketing calls are allowed but not if you tell the business you don’t want to receive them or you are registered with the Telephone Preference Service – complain to TPS on 08450 700707
  •  If you receive silent or abandoned calls contact OFCOM 0300 1233333


Notes for Editors:

For further information, to obtain a copy of the three reports, or to arrange an interview please contact Joe Blamey at TSI press office on 0845 608 9575 or

 Trading Standards Institute (TSI)

TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally.  We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.

TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.

[1] Angus Council pilot to reduce unwanted phone calls to older and more vulnerable consumers and to protect them from scams as part of the Angus Policy to "protect vulnerable adults from financial harm," Page 8, 5.1 Quantitive results.

[2] East Dunbartonshire Council nuisance phone call research study, page 2

[3] East Renfrewshire nuisance phone call project, page 3