BT Protect could stop 30m nuisance calls a week if everyone opts in
BT is introducing an opt-in network level blacklisting service that blocks sources of nuisance calls by redirecting them to a virtual voicemail box.
The company says that if all of its customers enable BT Protect, around 30 million such communications would be blocked every week.
It hopes to save people from the annoyance, anxiety and scams of such calls, such as those for PPI or double glazing, especially for those who are elderly or vulnerable.
BT figures show that accident claims made up 39 percent of the typical 31.2 million nuisance calls observed in a week, followed by PPI and computer scams on 9 percent.
“There are a legitimate number of telemarketing companies who follow the rules,” BT’s Pete Oliver told Silicon at the BT Tower. “We’ve developed a solution that can look at the network and use big data. We’re able to spot people whose calling patterns suggest they are not following the rule.”
Through its network centre in Oswestry, Shropshire, experts will be able to block sequences of numbers that are suspected of foul play and anyone who thinks they have been blocked unfairly can appeal, although BT doesn’t think this is a likely scenario.
The service can be switched on and managed via an online portal or by dialing 1572 – which is also the number customers should dial if they wish to listen to any voicemails left.
Users can block certain types of calls, such as those from withheld or international numbers, and add numbers to their own personal blacklist of up to 100. Those who sign up can even block certain withheld numbers as BT can see things customers can’t.
“We think people will use it for smaller companies not following the rules,” suggested Oliver.
The scheme is supported by regulator Ofcom, industry watchdog ‘Which?’, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), while BT has also promised to work with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for any potential rule breaches.
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“Nuisance callers are a terrible blight on society and Government and industry are working together to crack down on them,” said Matt Hancock, minister for digital and culture. We’ve forced companies to display their numbers when they call you, made it easier to prosecute those involved in making the calls, and increased the maximum fines up to £500,000.
“We welcome BT’s new service, which offers customers an additional level of protection, helping them to fight back against this ongoing harassment.”
However BT’s war on nuisance calls doesn’t mean it will offer customers free call screening. At present, this service is only free of charge for 12 months before a fee kicks in.
BT sees Protect as a key differentiator for its landline service but says other communications providers (CP), including TalkTalk and Sky, have the ability to block calls through Openreach.
“We think it’s a differentiator but the technology is available from Openreach,” said Oliver. “What we’ve developed is our own algorithm, Openreach lets you block calls.”