If you're like me, your heart sinks when you answer the phone – probably in the middle of your dinner – and a voice, quite possibly from abroad, mispronounces your name before attempting to interest you in something that you either have no need for at all, or that you have to give out potentially misusable personal information in order to pursue.
Seeking to stop the calls through the Telephone Preference Service is far from foolproof, and trying to identify which are genuine and which more likely part of a scam can be very difficult. In any event they usually get fairly short shrift in our household. So should we just ban them altogether?
Three quarters of the population think so, according to a Which? survey published today. And a quarter had felt intimidated by such calls, while 20% had felt pressured to buy something.
But would a ban achieve the desired resut? Would it put off those most likely to abuse the facility to make calls? Or would it, like internet spam, be difficult to eradicate simply because it can be practised from almost anywhere?
The Government position is that there's a balance to be struck "between allowing legitimate businesses to continue to operate and the needs of consumers". It would be interesting to know, if the research can be done, how much legitimate business is actually done that way – where is the balance, in other words, between good and harm on this one? And at what point in the spectrum should we say that the harm justifies a ban?
I have always thought it must be the most thankless job on the planet actually making these calls, but companies obviously think it worth their while. And as a general rule, banning something outright should be a last resort, as long as you can implement reasonable protections for the unsuspecting consumer. So however much I dislike the practice, making it illegal needs a stronger justification. Meantime I must get on to those Telephone Preference people again.