In March, CTSI had a meeting hosted by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss the outcomes on work to protect vulnerable consumers from nuisance and scam phone calls.
Brian Smith, CTSI lead officer crime and disorder, Lou Baxter, CTSI joint lead officer for consumer education, and Laura Jamieson with COSLA, gave presentations on the background and outcomes on work to protect vulnerable consumers from nuisance and scam phone calls.
There were some discussions about the potential use of the £3.5 million allocated for this purpose in the budget.
When discussing the scope and definition of vulnerability, it was surprising that the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUTR) definition of vulnerable consumers was not the widest definition. The previous week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had published the uninspiring “occasional paper number eight,” which despite its name is original, thorough and a superb basis for defining vulnerability. The health implications of nuisance and scam calls were recognised. From a course of trips and falls which could cost the health service in the region of £8,000-£48,000 if they resulted in hospitalisation to misery and psychological damage occasionally resulting in extreme circumstances and suicide. The future it was recognised that the Department of Health would need to participate in discussions.
The practicalities of call blocking technology both now at point of use and potentially on the network in the future were discussed.
The final part of the discussions looked at the potential of future funding options. This included proposals by CTSI representatives that other parties were asked to feedback to their respective organisations. Attendees included Ed Vaizey, minister for culture media and sport, Mike Crockart the then MP and joint Chair All Party group on nuisance calls, Which?, Citizens Advice, additional government departments and representatives of the voluntary sector.
In my six years as lead officer crime and disorder this was one of the most productive meetings I have attended on behalf of CTSI; a good use of a day’s annual leave. From my perspective over two years of pushing to have a recognition that the big issue was not nuisance calls themselves but the fact that they are used by serious and organised crime as a conduit through which to predate and victimise the vulnerable appeared to be finally accepted. I hope it’s conclusions will bear fruit both for the service and those who we seek to protect, one’s normal governmental processes resume after the general election.
This blog was contributed by Brian Smith, CTSI lead officer for crime and disorder.