You know the feeling. You’ve just come in from work, you’re rushing around trying to feed the cat, empty the bin, deal with your post, make the dinner and listen to the evening news. The phone rings. You have no way of knowing whether it’s your partner wanting a lift from the station, your mum ringing for a chat, a work call or your friend ringing to bitch about the latest internal Liberal Democrat shenanigans. Not that the last would ever happen of course…
So, you turn down the cooker, drop the cat or its food and go and pick up the phone, missing that one 30 second snippet of Jo Swinson or Angela Constance you’ve been waiting to see all day, only to discover it’s someone trying to flog you double glazing you don’t need, insurance you don’t want or a kitchen you’d love if only you could afford it. What makes the red mist descend with me is these recorded messages where there’s not even a person at the other end.
That’s just inconvenient. But there’s a more sinister side. It’s not just nice people who can get hold of your phone number. Look how this poor old man in North Yorkshire was conned out of £750 by a phone scammer.
Well, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West Mike Crockart has decided enough is enough. He’s launched a campaign, backed by Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post, to do two things:
- for the Information Commissioner’s powers to be strengthened to take in all unsolicited contact
- for there to be a single point of contact to opt out of the lot. Fax, email, mail, phone, the works.
I‘m fed up of nuisance calls to my mobile and to my home phone as well as unsolicited texts sent to my mobile. I know that it’s a real problem for many of my constituents and others across the UK. The bottom line is that people shouldn’t have to put up with this menace which puts many vulnerable and elderly people at risk of fraud just as much as if the crook or pushy salesman was turning up at their door unannounced.
There were 650 million silent calls made in the UK last year; 45 million spam texts sent in Europe last and every year and 3 million UK adults will be scammed out of £800 this year by fraudulent marketing calls. It is clear we now have an industry in crisis and a country under siege. Since launching the campaign only four weeks ago, over 10,500 people have signed the campaign petition. I hope that good old people power will demonstrate to the Government that the legislation in this area needs to be tightened and enforced vigorously.
The problem is out of control and needs urgent action. We desperately need an Information Commissioner with the power to put an end to this menace.
Let’s hope that this is another of these issues where the actions of a backbench MP can change things to remove what at best is a minor irritation, but can lead to catastrophic criminal consequences.
Mike has also written to the Culture Secretary and the Liberal Democrat minister Lord McNally to ask them to take action.
This issue clearly affects people way beyond the confines of Mike’s lovely west Edinburgh constituency, so please feel free to share this widely, use on your Focus leaflets or local party websites or on any social networks you use.