“Honest, I’m really not selling you anything.”

Fergus had a fascinating chat with Lee Beaumont on BBC Breakfast on Friday. Lee set up an 0871 ‘premium rate’ number and encouraged companies to use that when they called him. They were charged 10p per minute for the privilege and he made himself a bit of money, as well as a bit of the old ‘feel-good factor’ at getting one over on the folk who had been plaguing him with unwanted calls.

It’s not a route we’d recommend for everyone. The Regulator’s rules are fairly stringent and Lee was able to comply with these rules because he runs a business from home and has the time do so. For example you have to ensure that everyone who is likely to use the service understands the charges, and you have to have a complaints procedure in place should anyone be unhappy with your service.

And critically you have to offer a service. What service Lee was offering we’re not sure, and perhaps this exposes a weakness in the Regulator’s position that Lee was able to set up this line in the first place.

What Lee’s actions have done, however, is bring the debate about unwanted phone calls out into the open. There is no doubt that too many of us have our evenings spoiled by calls that we neither solicited, wanted or needed, and it is time for the Regulators, and Government, to take action. At the same time they have to do so in a manner than still allows companies out there to develop and grow their businesses and look for new customers.

A lot of it is down to the training that the sales people ’employed’ by the companies that cold-call receive. A polite approach, and an ability to take a ‘no’ when offered politely would make many more of us less agitated by these calls.

And some honesty when they call us would be good as well. Companies don’t call you at 7pm to have a social chat. they call because they have something to sell. So the thing that irritates us most is the call that begins ‘I’m not trying to sell you anything’, because we know they are! So don’t patronise us, treat us like adults and maybe we’ll listen.

And if we don’t want to listen then please allow us to hang up.

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