Status: 01/14/2022 10:15 a.m
There have never been more complaints about unwanted telephone solicitations than in the past year. For the companies displayed, calls with withheld numbers could become even more expensive in the future.
Complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls reached a new high last year. The Federal Network Agency received 79,702 complaints about illegal telephone advertising. That is around 26 percent more than in the previous year, as the Bonn authority announced. The unwanted advertising calls were mainly about insurance, financial products and energy contracts. Advertisements for sweepstakes and magazine subscriptions also annoyed consumers.
The Federal Network Agency investigates the complaints and can also impose fines on the advertising companies. Last year, companies had to pay a total of 1.4 million euros in fines. In the future, these penalties may be even harsher, since last December the range of fines in the case of withheld numbers was increased: Instead of the previous maximum fine of 10,000 euros, fines of up to 300,000 euros can now be imposed.
No clear trend
Telephone advertising is only allowed if consumers have given their prior consent. The number must be transmitted. Jochen Homann, head of the Federal Network Agency, said: “We continue to take action against companies that operate unauthorized telephone advertising.” The perpetrators would be pursued “with all the means at our disposal”. Advertising calls with a suppressed number are “unacceptable”. The Federal Network Agency announced that these calls without a number on the display were particularly common last year. It was also noticeable that some advertisers used different phone numbers.
In the past year, the authority had registered significantly more complaints about unwanted telephone advertising. However, the trend is not unambiguous, as there had been a decline before. How big the problem actually is cannot be reliably determined, since the complaints are the only clue for the Federal Network Agency.
More than a thousand disabled phone numbers
In politics, the high number of complaints was noted with concern. The FDP member of parliament Reinhard Houben pointed out that calls were often made to landline numbers that are in the phone book: “This is a big problem for older people who still use their landline phones a lot.” He appealed to the network agency to act with all severity against the companies. The options provided for by the tightened law “should also lead to significantly higher fines this year if the intrusive advertising companies simply continue as before”.
The Federal Network Agency also registered an increasing number of complaints about fraudulent SMS and the so-called “smishing” scam. The aim of “smishing” is to trick consumers into clicking on a link and then unknowingly downloading malware. The Federal Network Agency reacted and, among other things, had 1110 numbers switched off because of abuse.