New drive to help people tackle cold calling salesmen in Portsmouth

Picture: Pierandrea Guarnieri

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A CRACKDOWN on cold callers to protect people from harassment is set to be rolled out across Portsmouth.

All three political parties have backed turning the city into a Cold Calling Control Area to try to stamp out ‘nuisance’ salesmen.

Every household in the city will be sent a notice which can be displayed in a window telling cold callers they are not welcome.

And if they ignore the warnings, doorstep salespeople could face criminal charges under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The new measures come in the wake of nine Cold Calling Zones set up since 2006, which the council says have dramatically reduced the number of unwanted visits and distraction burglaries.

In a report officers say cold calling can be ‘an invasion of privacy’ which residents feel powerless to stop happening.

But some have asked if the measures go too far and lump legitimate door-to-door sales people in with conmen.

Cabinet member for community safety Aiden Gray said the drive was really about giving householders the power to put a stop to unwanted intrusions if they want to.

‘People have told us they feel uncomfortable with the cold calling approach from some of these salesmen,’ he said.

‘They are intimidated and many are elderly or vulnerable. These notices will let salespeople know they aren’t comfortable with someone knocking on their door.

‘It will also help deal with the distraction burglaries that can happen as a result.’

Tory and Labour community safety spokesmen, Cllr Ken Ellcome and Cllr John Ferrett, said they agreed with the policy. Cllr Ellcome said: ‘We are worried about vulnerable people getting badgered into buying things they don’t need or want.’

However The News consumer rights expert and retired Trading Standards officer Richard Thomson said he thought the council was behaving in a ‘nannyish’ way.

He said: ‘Doorstep trading is a legitimate activity and I’m a little uncomfortable about the woolly definition of “cold caller” which has acquired a sinister aspect.

‘It smacks of nannyism and a bit over the top to deter market researchers, charities, and bona fide businesses from telling people about what they have to offer, canvassing for support, or providing goods.

‘I suspect the popularity of some “no cold calling” zones owes much more to the reluctance of many people to summon up the courage tell unwanted callers where to get off. Providing a notice to the same effect is little more than a cop out and waste of public money.’