BT has announced a new service that could largely eliminate nuisance phone calls. Its service lets customers easily block the entities making the calls, and other telecom companies are expected to introduce similar services.

Many smartphones already have the capability to allow users to block the numbers of companies making unwanted marketing calls, but BT’s Call Protect service enables users to block the companies themselves, even when they change phone numbers.

BT estimates that the free service can potentially block 30 million calls each week, even before they reach the phones of their intended targets.

The Call Protect service uses live call data collected and analysed by BT’s data centre in Oswestry, Shropshire, which identified numbers making an extraordinarily large number of calls. Those numbers were added to a blacklist of centrally located numbers that the service uses to block nuisance calls.

BT estimates that it can block up to 15 million calls a week from PPI and accident claim companies alone.

Users can add numbers to their personal blacklists by dialling 1572 (or going online) after receiving unwanted calls. BT will add nuisance numbers reported by large numbers of customers to the central blacklist.

Since last April, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined companies a total of £1m for making nuisance phone calls. From this coming April, the Government proposes to allow the IPC to fine individual directors of those companies up to £500,000. Andy Curry, the ICO’s Group Enforcement Director, predicts that these fines will make 2017 an “uncomfortable year” for the affected directors.

A survey commissioned by BT found that the frequency of nuisance phone calls received by a person is about four per week, and about 60% of those receiving the calls feel stressed because of them.

John Petter, Chief Executive of BT Consumer, commented: “We’ve been at the forefront of equipping our customers to defend themselves against the huge numbers of PPI and unwanted marketing calls that are continuing to grow.

“Now, with our unique technology, we can identify and tackle huge numbers of those calls in the network and also give our customers control over the calls they receive.”

Vickie Sheriff, Director of Campaigns and Communications at Which?, is encouraged by the news and said that BT’s new service showed that telecom companies are beginning to shoulder their responsibility to curtail intrusive marketing calls.

She stated: “We have long campaigned for tougher action to tackle this problem, and it’s encouraging to see new technology being rolled out as part of the solution.

“Now it needs to deliver results for the millions of people harassed every day by nuisance calls, and we expect other companies to follow suit with their own solutions.”

Digital Minister Matt Hancock also welcomed BT’s initiative: “Nuisance callers are a terrible blight on society, and Government and industry are working together to crack down on them.

“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.”