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Government urged to ban nuisance calls and texts from claims firms

Phone with text message reading 'personal injury?'
Scammers and claims firms sent out 6m calls and texts a day, which equates to 4,200 for every minute of 2017. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

British consumers were bombarded with 2.2bn nuisance phone calls and texts from pensions, PPI and cash-for-crash claims firms last year, according to an analysis of Ofcom data.

More than 40% of those calls and texts (nearly 900m) came from ambulance-chasing firms asking if the recipient had recently been involved in an accident or some other insurance-related matter, said Aviva, which on Monday urged such calls be banned.

Overall, scammers and claims firms sent out 6m calls and texts a day, which equates to 4,200 for every minute of 2017. The overwhelming majority targeted those aged 65 and over, Aviva said.

The study’s release comes as MPs are set to debate the financialguidance and claims bill for the second time. The bill proposes the creation of a single financial guidance body that would consider the impact of cold-calling on consumers.

Aviva has asked ministers to use the legislation to ban calls relating to a pensions, PPI or insurance claim where therewas no established relationship with the consumer. Such protections already exist with other financial products such as mortgages.

Last month the Commons work and pensions select committee called on the government to “swiftly” introduce a ban on unsolicited pensions sales calls to help protect consumers from being scammed.

Aviva said research it had conducted suggested 85% of consumers would support a ban on all such nuisance calls. More that half of adults said these nuisance calls were “the most annoying thing about owning a phone”.

Rob Townend, UK claims director at Aviva, said nuisance calls have become a national epidemic that has to be stopped.

“Whether it is a call chasing an injury you may or may not have sustained in an accident, or a pension scammer attempting to con unsuspecting individuals out of their hard-earned retirement savings, there is no place in our society for them.

“The financial guidance and claims bill currently before parliament is a terrific opportunity to ban these unsolicited calls once and for all. If the government is serious about protecting all members of our society, including the most vulnerable, then it should take decisive action.”

Claims management companies (CMCs) frequently target consumers who may have been injured in a car accident. CMCs are attracted to such claims due to the large fees they receive in exchange for passing the claimant to an organisation that can help them pursue their claim.

In April 2015 the government introduced new pension freedoms, allowing anyone aged 55 and over with a defined contribution pension to take all or part of their retirement savings as a lump sum. Since then pensions-related nuisance calls are estimated to have increased by about 2.7m.

This article titled "Government urged to ban nuisance calls and texts from claims firms" was written by Miles Brignall, for The Guardian on Monday 8 January 2018 12.01am

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