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10 February 2010

Will you put two fingers up to the political “robocallers“?

How to avoid telephone tactics in the run-up to the general election.

By Jason Stamper

While you may seek cheap thrills from telling political campaigners exactly what you think of their parties, you’ve got no such capacity when you’re hit with a so-called “robocall”.

The Labour Party found itself in hot water recently when the Information Commissioner’s Office said it had breached privacy rules by making unsolicited automated “robocalls” — voiced by the Coronation Street star Liz Dawn — to 495,000 people. But the Lib Dems, the Tories and the SNP have used the gimmick, too.

In the run-up to the election, it’s likely these and other telephonic tactics will be on the increase.

But fear not, because help is at hand for those who prefer not to receive their campaigning, unsolicited, down the dog and bone. A new website has been set up by the inventor Steve Smith, who made TV history on Dragon’s Den last summer when he received offers from all five Dragons on the show for his trueCall nuisance-call-blocking device.

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He’s set up thepoliticalcallregister.co.uk. If you register on this site, Smith promises to send your details to the main political parties, asking them not to contact you by phone. If they persist, he’s pledges, he will name and shame the culprits.

“This is a growing problem and the parties that do it are worse than cowboy telemarketers,” Smith said. “These calls can be made for a penny each, so the politicians can very cheaply flood the country with calls. It is extremely intrusive.”

Not everyone will be signing up for the service, mind. Smith’s company carried out its own research with MORI in October 2008 and found that although most voters would not be happy if a political party rang them and played a recorded message, a sizable 25 per cent clearly quite like the sound of a political robot’s voice.

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