Improving Government response
Our commitment to protecting people from nuisance and scam calls and to supporting legitimate businesses is outlined in the previous sections. However, our own procedures and policies must also display best practice and not unintentionally contribute to the problem.
What is the Scottish Government doing?
1. Updating our impact assessments
A significant number of nuisance calls are made by companies claiming to be affiliated with Scottish Government schemes, such as energy efficiency initiatives. New Scottish Government legislation is already assessed on a range of areas, including business, equalities and privacy impacts. We have now supplemented these with assessments to consider the impacts of new policies on consumers. A key function of these assessments is to ensure the potential for an increase in nuisance calls is considered along with steps to minimise this risk.
2. Ensuring our schemes meet best practice
As with the previous action, this recognises that government schemes can be hijacked by nuisance callers, and that this increases confusion among the general public. In reality, we cannot eliminate the risk that a government scheme will be used by unscrupulous organisations. However, we can minimise it. We have developed our own set of principles that should be adhered to when new schemes are being developed. These principles are that:
- any organisation we directly contract with to deliver a government scheme will not make cold calls, unless there are exceptional grounds for doing so;
- new schemes should work to identify and protect vulnerable users; and
- adequate time and publicity is built in before any large scheme launches so people know how legitimate Scottish Government contact will occur.
3. Displaying a number for outbound calls
The Scottish Government does not display its number when making outbound calls, which makes it difficult for members of the public to know who we are when we call. In the coming months, we will be working to change this practice so that our number is displayed, except where there are compelling reasons, such as security, not to do so. We will work with public agencies across Scotland to do likewise.
4. Work to improve regulatory solutions
At the beginning of this document, we set out the limitations on our powers to tackle nuisance calls. Nonetheless, we have identified some areas where further action should be explored. We have put these to the UK Government and offer to support them wherever possible. In particular, we are interested in understanding:
- The possibilities for improving how consumers avoid unwanted calls - at present, through TPS, customers must take steps to opt-out of unwanted calls instead of being opted out by default. New data protection regulations could bring us closer to an opt-out model. This should be kept under review and we should explore whether more needs to be done.
- The scope for telecoms companies to do more - earlier we highlighted the availability of call blocking services from some telecoms providers. Where there are not unreasonable technical obstacles, we encourage this practice to be more widely adopted, and suggest that, along with the UK Government and regulatory agencies, we monitor this situation for progress.
- The opportunities to make it easier for people to report nuisance calls, particularly suspected scam calls - at present, it is difficult and time consuming for consumers to know how and where to complain. A simpler system - for example, a phone line - should be explored.
5. Develop a scams prevention strategy
As our work on nuisance calls has progressed, it has become obvious that the greatest threat to be tackled is the danger of scam calls, especially to vulnerable people, and that the problem of scams goes far beyond those perpetrated via unwanted calls. As a long term action, Commission members sought a strategic and coordinated response to scams from the Scottish Government and enforcement agencies.
This is a complex task. However, the Scottish Government is committed to achieving it, by creating a dedicated scams partnership to develop and deliver a more coordinated response across government and the wider landscape of enforcement agencies, consumer groups, health and social care providers, industry and third sector organisations.
We also want the strategy to be informed and shaped by the experiences of those we are trying to protect. We therefore commit to a series of events across Scotland for people affected by scams to share their experiences and ideas for solutions.
More than 400,000 older people believe they have been targeted by scammers 
Email: Corey Reilly, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House