Most of us are plagued with nuisance calls. How many times have you had an unsolicited approach about PPI or that accident you never had?
Anyone reading this probably knows to ignore them but millions of people are at risk of wasting their time and losing their money if they fall for such tricks.
There is a whole industry established to impoverish unsuspecting consumers who think someone is helping them. Claims management companies organising unsolicited approaches are richly rewarded, taking a cut from customer compensation.
The same applies to companies offering free “pension reviews” or exciting investment opportunities to people who have never requested them. Unsolicited communications are the foundation of almost all scams and frauds.
The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers estimates there are over 50 million cold-calls or texts a year from regulated CMCs, so existing initiatives to prevent them are clearly ineffective. For example, requiring caller line identification from direct marketing salespeople so they can be traced is akin to the law insisting burglars must leave a business card behind. Banning cold-calling can give the public the clear message that anyone who contacts them out of the blue about an insurance claim, investments or their pension is a criminal, so ignore them. The ban is urgent.
After earning substantial sums from whiplash claims and PPI in past years, cold-callers are now encouraging people to claim (often fraudulently) for holiday sickness in the hope hotels will just pay up.
Some startling statistics indicate the scale and growth of this problem, and it is giving Britain a bad name. The number of British holiday sickness claims rose by around 600 per cent last year, with no reported increase in illness at resorts. Indeed, one tour operator last year took 800,000 German customers and 750,000 British holidaymakers to the same resort over the same period. The Germans made 114 sickness claims, while the Brits made over 4,000 claims. Some resorts are threatening price increases for all UK customers or to reject them altogether.
Cold-calling is already banned for mortgages; consumers require similar protection from CMCs and pension companies. The Government has announced it intends to ban cold-calling for pensions but action is required, not announcements. There is no need to delay further.
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill now going through Parliament offers a golden opportunity to ban cold-calling for CMCs, and it could be used to protect against pension cold-calling too.
Working with other peers, I have tabled amendments to achieve this, yet ministers refuse to agree. We will keep trying at report stage in late-October.The Government would win praise for doing it and there is widespread support. What does it take for policymakers to finally act?
With Brexit dominating the Parliamentary timetable for the next two years, there may be no other legislative opportunity to introduce such a ban. Let’s not miss this one. This battle is is far from over
Ros Altmann is former pensions minister