More and more complaints about annoying advertising calls

Fancy a sweepstake? Or: Aren’t you underinsured? And isn’t your current electricity contract much too expensive? Such advertising calls are annoying – and are leading to more and more complaints.

According to statistics, advertising calls have never caused as much trouble in Germany as last year. The Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) received 79,702 complaints about unauthorized telephone advertising, a quarter (26 percent) more than in the previous year, according to the Bonn-based agency.

The highest number of complaints to date, 63,273, was recorded in 2020. The unwanted advertising calls were about insurance, financial products and energy contracts. Advertising for sweepstakes and magazine subscriptions also annoyed consumers.

Higher fines for advertising calls

Telephone advertising is only permitted if consumers have given their prior consent. The caller must provide the number in the process. The Federal Network Agency investigates complaints and imposes fines where appropriate. Last year, companies were ordered to pay a total of 1.435 million euros, which was 84,000 euros more than in 2020.

In the future, the authority will be able to make advertising companies pay even more than before, as the fine range has increased from the previous maximum of EUR 10,000 to EUR 300,000 in December 2021 in the case of suppressed numbers. Calls without a number in the display were particularly frequent last year – the threat of fines will now be used to take stronger countermeasures. It was also noticeable that some advertisers used alternating numbers.

Jochen Homann, head of the authorities, said that the perpetrators would be pursued again this year “with all the means at our disposal”. “We are continuing to take vigorous action against companies that engage in unauthorized telephone advertising.” Advertising calls with suppressed phone numbers are “unacceptable,” he said.

Read also: Using a trick to search for the owner of an unknown cell phone number

Complaint figures merely an indication of the problem

Last year, the authority had already registered significantly more complaints. Before that, however, there had been a decline in the number of critical messages – so the trend is not entirely clear.

In any case, the complaint figures are only an indication of problems. For possibly the increase is at least partly also due to the fact that the possibility to complain to the Federal Network Agency has become better known. Many consumers were probably annoyed by the advertising calls before, but it is only now that they are reporting them to the Bonn authority.

Politicians want to combat advertising calls

Politicians are taking note of the complaint figures with concern. FDP member of parliament Reinhard Houben pointed out that the unlawful advertising calls were often made to landline numbers listed 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 take tough action against the companies. The possibilities provided by the stricter law “should also lead to significantly higher fines this year, should the intrusive advertising companies simply continue as before.” The unauthorized telephone calls are “a major nuisance, the cause of which must be tackled consistently.”

Also complaints about fax and SMS

The Federal Network Agency also registered an increasing number of complaints about another type of unwanted contact.

Last year, for example, this involved fax advertising for Corona tests and for masks, as well as fraud text messages with the “smishing” scam. In the latter case, consumers are tempted to click on a link and then unknowingly download malware. The Federal Network Agency reacted and had 1110 numbers disconnected for misuse, among other things.

These spam phone numbers are currently causing trouble

People who are affected by the telephone terror caused by unwanted advertising calls can not only report the relevant numbers, they also have the opportunity to protect themselves. atechbook publishes every month the list of numbers that cause particularly frequent annoyance. So you should beware of such calls. Or you can block the numbers in your router. This can be done very easily via the Fritzbox, for example. If, despite everything, you have accepted a spam call, you should avoid saying a certain word on the phone.