3.2m 'scared' by phone marketing
More than 3.2 million people have been left too scared to answer the phone by nuisance calls from telemarketing companies, a survey has found.
Of the 45 million British adults who have received unsolicited calls or text messages from businesses, 83% said the public need greater protection from the marketing tactic.
The research, which was completed by debt charity Step Change, found that regulatory measures designed to crackdown on unwanted promotional messages are "widely flouted and inadequately enforced".
The Got Their Number survey, which polled more than 2,000 people last month, concluded: "Vulnerable customers are now routinely subjected to intrusive, distressing and potentially harmful calls.
"These calls can lead to serious stress and anxiety related problems - just over 3.2 million British adults say they have been left afraid as a result of unsolicited calls and texts."
Telemarketing messages are relied upon heavily by payday lending companies and firms that claim to offer compensation for payment protection insurance as a way of reaching new customers.
The charity discovered as a result that 26.3 million adults had been offered high-interest credit via an unexpected call or text - with 3% of these tempted to take up the offer.
Richard Lloyd, exective director of financial watchdog Which?, said: "We found that nuisance calls and texts are making people's lives a misery, with many discouraged from answering their phone and others feeling intimidated.
"It is especially worrying that financially vulnerable consumers are being encouraged to take out extortionate payday loans they they can't afford.
"We urgently need the Government to step in with a new approach, new laws and new technology to tackle this menace and put people back in control of their personal data."
Labour MP Stella Creasy, shadow minister for competition and consumer affairs, said: " Just as you shouldn't be followed if you decide to leave a shop, so you shouldn't be hassled if you've asked a company to stop calling - yet for the millions of consumers who get unsolicited text messages, phone calls or spam emails, the news that companies are flouting schemes like the telephone preference service system will further highlights the current self regulation of this industry isn't good enough.
"We know some companies are playing fair, but too many are flouting the rules and causing misery for many as they are plagued by these messages despite their best attempts to stop them.
"We want to see the regulators sending a clear message that this isn't acceptable and a radical overhaul of how complaints are dealt with to better protect consumers and those companies which do listen to customer concerns."