A change in the law on “wicked” nuisance phone calls has been announced following a weekly newspaper’s campaign.
Last July Northumberland Gazette editor Paul Larkin met with Information Commissioner Christopher Graham in Westminster to hand over a 2,000-name petition following its Stop Nuisance Robocalls campaign.
The campaign had been launched after a torrent of late-night automated phone calls had angered readers of the Alnwick-based paper.
Mr Graham credited the paper with having helped bring about a change in the law on the issue after the government announced a clampdown last week.
Under current legislation firms can only be punished for cold-calling if the Information Commissioner can prove a call caused “substantial damage or substantial distress”.
But from next month, that legal requirement is to be removed and it will now be up to the ICO to assess when a serious contravention has taken place.
Praising the Gazette’s campaign, Mr Graham said: “The people of north Northumberland and the Northumberland Gazette should be patting themselves on their back.
“This very welcome change has been a long time coming, but in the end the evidence from citizens and consumers was overwhelming, so it’s a victory all round.
“When the Gazette editor came down and I met with him and Sir Alan Beith (MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed) and he handed over the petition, I said ‘this is exhibit A for the business case we will put in to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.'”
Paul thanked those who had signed the petition and contributed their stories of nuisance calls.
He said: “This is great news for all the readers who bombarded our Facebook page after that spate of automated calls in the middle of the night.
“They were furious and we quickly realised that there was a real strength of feeling that something needed to be done to tighten the law to block these wicked calls.
“Some of the stories we published were heart-wrenching as the lives of elderly or vulnerable members of our community were being wrecked by the phone calls.
“Just imagine how you would feel if you were elderly and living alone and the phone rang several times during the night – night after night.
“We are pleased the campaign influenced the decision-makers and that the law will now be tightened. We hope this helps the people of Northumberland and those all over the country who have been plagued by unwanted calls.
“Thank you to all those who signed our petition or left messages on Facebook – they were all passed on to the Information Commissioner, who has since done a sterling job.
“This is a great example of the way local newspapers can make a difference in their communities.”