Nuisance calls are probably among the most frustrating aspects of owning a mobile phone.
For a while it felt like they may have been confined to the past and have been a quirk of technology left behind with the landline.
However, nuisance calls quickly caught up with the fact that smartphones are increasingly popular and their efforts would be better spent trying to reach people on those devices. With this in mind, industry regulator Ofcom has announced that unsolicited sales and marketing calls can now be opted out of by sending a single text message.
Taking the form of a text-to-register scheme, it is being run by Ofcom in cooperation with the Telephone Preference Service and adds phone numbers to the UK 'do not call' database. All that mobile phone users have to do to benefit from this initiative is text 'TPS' and their email address to 78070.
It is illegal for unsolicited calls and marketing schemes to be directed to a person registered with the TPS, unless they already have that individual's permission.
Research carried out by Ofcom shows that only 48 per cent of UK adults already familiar with the TPS are aware that mobile phones can be registered. This is slim compared to the 98 per cent of respondents who said they knew landline phones can be placed on the register.
This could go some way to explaining why only 2.9 million mobile phone numbers – around three per cent of the national total – are listed on the TPS database, compared with 18.5 million landlines, or 85 per cent.
Once the text message has been sent to register for the service, the user will receive a reply from the TPS confirming their number has been successfully added. Although it can take up to 28 days for the service to become fully effective, registrants should notice a gradual reduction in unsolicited sales and marketing voice calls after just a few days.
The monthly volume of live sales or marketing calls received by those registered with the TPS is typically reduced by around a third (31 per cent), according to a study commissioned by Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office. Despite this, there is nothing the service can do to prevent spam text messages.
Head of the TPS John Mitchison said rogue callers operate both illegally and against the interests of phone users.
"Texting will make it easier for people to register their mobile numbers on the TPS, which is the only official no-call list, and help us stamp out rogue callers once and for all by giving the information commissioner more ammunition to prosecute these cases," he commented.
Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said she wanted to ensure it is as easy as possible for mobile users to take advantage of TPS protection – especially given that millions of landline customers already do so.
"We encourage anyone who wants to reduce the number of frustrating and unwanted calls to their mobile phone to register with the TPS," she remarked.
Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister responsible for data protection, welcomed the new TPS service, for the same reasons.
"Nuisance calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant distress, particularly to elderly and vulnerable members of society.
" [The] government is committed to tackling this problem and we have introduced a series of measures that have already seen record fines handed out to combat these rogue callers."