Sales calls protection for elderly
Pensioners might soon be able to block nuisance cold calls thanks to new technology being researched by the Government.
Culture and Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said the call-screening technology could be given free to those "at higher risk of financial damage and personal distress" from sales calls.
Companies also face fines of up to £500,000 if they continue to contact people who have registered to not receive marketing calls with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reached 18,594 for live calls and 22,072 for automated messages between April and June this year.
In March, the ICO launched an investigation after the details of 3,000 elderly and vulnerable people were sold to undercover Daily Mail reporters by medical firms.
It was alleged that similar information was sold to cold-calling firms.
The announcement comes amid allegations last month that 92-year-old veteran poppy seller Olive Cooke died shortly after being overwhelmed by requests from charities.
Mrs Cooke received 267 charity letters in one month before she apparently took her own life in May, prompting almost 400 complaints about high-pressure techniques used by charities to The Fundraising Standards Board.
Mr Vaizey said: "While call blockers are available on the open market for consumers to purchase, the Government is exploring options to provide free devices to people identified as being at higher risk of financial damage and personal distress as a result of nuisance calls.
"Individuals can register their telephone number with the TPS and there is no charge for doing so.
"The Information Commissioner's Office enforces the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and has powers to issue monetary penalties of up to £500,000 against non-compliant firms."
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's good news that the Government wants to do more to protect vulnerable people from the everyday menace of nuisance calls.
"We fully support Government plans to give those particularly at risk, including elderly people at home during the day, free call blocking technology.
"It shouldn't only fall to consumers to block these calls though. Regulators need to come down hard on firms that break the rules and senior executives should be held to account if their company makes unlawful marketing calls."