National Consumer Week
I am deeply concerned by research from consumer group Which? showing people in Scotland receive more nuisance calls than anywhere else in the UK. These calls are annoying for almost all of us. But for those whose circumstances make them particularly vulnerable – like older people who can be at home more – they can cause fear, distress and even financial loss. It’s a story I hear often as an MSP, and I heard it again this week, when I spoke to a woman who has had her confidence and her savings destroyed by a scam that began with an unwanted nuisance call.
Although the powers to tackle this issue lie with Westminster, I welcome recent progress, such as moves to hold directors of companies making nuisance calls personally accountable, but today I’m calling on them to commit to protecting the people of Scotland and recognise that this problem has reached unacceptable levels here, with three of our cities in the top four in the UK for calls received. Changing this must be a top priority.
One easy way to do this is to make sure national funding provided to East Sussex Council for call blocking technology is used in the areas that need it most. While I’m disappointed that the funding that was allocated almost two years ago has not yet been delivered, I see real potential for it to change the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.
This problem can’t be solved overnight, but on Wednesday, I chaired our first meeting of the Nuisance Calls Commission, which I established to continue the momentum from Scotland’s first ever Nuisance Calls Summit in June. I was encouraged by the positive discussions I heard and the commitment made by all to take action.
The Commission is bringing regulators, industry, consumer groups and the UK Government together to see what practical steps we can take to make a difference – whether that’s raising consumer awareness or working with businesses to find ways to protect their customers.
I will continue to press the UK Government on this issue, and to challenge the Commission to find solutions that have a real impact. We will meet again early next year, and by the end, we will produce a joint plan, setting out the longer term steps we will take. I look forward to sharing it with you. In the meantime, rest assured that I am working hard to ensure the menace of nuisance calls is tackled.