[... from companies I will (now) never buy from or do business with] Over the past few weeks I've been getting some missed call alerts on my mobile phone. These aren't the normal type you get when the phone actually rings: these are the text messages I get from Orange when the call is too short (this case) or my phone's off or out-of-range. The numbers: 0800 915 7111 and 0800 915 7113
Googling for these numbers only gives me a discussion on uk.telecom.mobile of people with about as much clue as me on who the culprit is.
I signed up to the Telephone Preference Service years ago, so I shouldn't get unsolicited calls. Unfortunately, the TPS seems utterly toothless. They don't seem to have any enforcement powers whatsoever, and from my experience companies that claim to abide by the TPS completely ignore it. I've made complaints to the TPS before and the data seems to go nowhere. The extra problem is that these calls aren't necessarily sales calls. I assume they are, but to me they're just silent calls if anything.
So, next step is the ICSTIS who also seem to be completely pointless, but they do offer a (sometimes) useful tool. Admittedly, ICSTIS is only meant to regulate premium-rate services, but they're still part of this broken regulation system, so I hate them too. Their tool does indicate that although they don't regulate freephone (0800) numbers, their records state that the number is provided by Torch Communications Ltd.
Unfortunately, this doesn't help much: it's usually just the company that provided the phone number, and not the company that actually uses the phone number.
I also tried the Information Commissioner who is supposedly meant to have something to do with this issue. After wading through a woolly PDF about their complaints procedure, I think I understand that they have no powers either.
So, to Ofcom. Their complaints page just points me back to the TPS, stating that I should make my complaint to them. In the meantime, however, I emailed a rather bolshy note to "the office of the Secretary to the Corporation Graham Howell (firstname.lastname@example.org)" as shown in the "Complaints about Ofcom" page, saying (to paraphrase) "Belt up and sort this thing out".
Anyway, on calling the original phone number (0800 915 7111) I get a recorded message:
"Thank you for calling. The call made to you was from TRG Europe on behalf of one of [his?] clients: a company which we understand you are familiar with. The call was not urgent and we apologise for missing you on this occasion. We'll try to contact you again soon. The UK call centre industry is anxious to promote good practice in customer communications. However, if you are concerned about receiving potentially unexpected telephone calls from businesses, you can register to stop them by calling the Telephone Preference Service on 0845 070 0707. That's 0845 070 0707."
Unfortunately, they don't give the option to talk to themselves! As I can't tell which client they're calling on behalf of, I can't really gauge how useful the TPS has been. This could quite easily be on behalf of a company that I have "had business dealings with" as I do, in fact, live in a consumption-driven society and so I do sometimes BUY THINGS FROM COMPANIES! If I find out who this is on behalf of, there's a good chance I will not have any further dealings with them.
Googling for "TRG Europe" is slightly confusing as the number-one hit is "www.iSky.co.uk" rather than the number-three "www.trgeurope.com". It looks like iSky has now rebranded (read: has been bought by) TRG Europe Plc. This seems to be a company that offers "outsourced telephone call handling and relationship management" which (as far as I'm concerned) translates to: "battery farms full of miserable, ill-trained and ill-informed twenty-somethings whose sole purpose is to call me up and annoy me."
So, I emailed them asking if it was them. I hold out zero hope that my email will be answered, but I suppose it's worth trying. I might get around to calling TRG Europe directly, and asking them whether it's them. Their HQ is only about five miles from where I live and close to the local Tesco, so I might pop round on my way back from there.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is not exactly a shocking breach of human rights or anything like that. However, low-level evil such as cold-calling is one of the primary causes of the ongoing fall of western civilisation. For more details, read "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett. This practice probably adds annoyance and stress to millions of people every day, causing them to be rude and intolerant with their peers, friends and families. In addition, the problem seems to be getting worse.
The other reason this should be dealt with is that it can be easily stopped. Unlike email spam which is practically impossible to trace, this is easily traceable. There's no technological reason why this can't be prevented.
There are laws in place to fight this kind of behaviour, but unfortunately Ofcom, ICO, ICSTIS, TPS and the other quango-ish bodies just can't get themselves organised. What we need are the directors of these companies to be fined and punished directly to make cold-calling, silent calling, unsolicited communication (eg. Fax and SMS spam) such an impossible legal minefield that a company will only think of calling a customer if they've got permission to do so from that customer. How many UK voters would actually disagree with such a stance?
For those who reach this page by angrily hammering 08009157111, 08009157112, 08009157113, 08009157117, 08009157118, 0800 915 7111, 0800 915 7112, 0800 915 7113, 0800 915 7117, 0800 915 7118, or any other combination of these insipid numbers into their browser's search box, I'm afraid I have no good news to report so far. If you've got further than me, or you agree (or disagree) then please get in touch by leaving a comment on the bottom of this page.
UPDATE 22/7/06: I've received about three a day since writing this, and there's no sign of them letting up. I remembered that it's possible to turn off missed call alerts with Orange by calling the answerphone and using the menu system. It's a shame, since it's a great feature to have for legitimate purposes, but with this idiot company spoiling it, I have to turn it off now. I'm kinda hoping this will mean their calls will get through properly now so I can give them a good yelling.