France’s anti-nuisance calls service Bloctel breaks down

The service has been ‘offline’ all weekend as it changes operator. Have you noticed more nuisance cold-calls as a result? Plus, we offer tips to deal with unwanted sales calls

4 October 2021
Woman using a smartphone rolling her eyes

The Bloctel system is undergoing maintenance work, which means that more people may experience nuisance cold calls in France at the moment Pic: Krakenimages.com / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thomspon

Bloctel, the French anti-nuisance calls database, has been ‘offline’ since Friday, October 1, prompting fears that there could be a spike of nuisance and cold calls to people who have opted out.

Despite the risk, fraud repression watchdog la direction de la concurrence et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF), wrote on its website that the ‘breakdown’ was planned.

It said: “From October 1, the Bloctel service is changing operator. This change requires maintenance work of the site for a few days, which is currently taking place.”

However, the website did not specify an end date for the work.

What is Bloctel? 

It is a list of numbers that businesses and individuals are not allowed to call for commercial purposes unless the planned call recipients have an “ongoing contractual relationship” with the company. 

It was set up in 2016. It is provided by the French government and is intended to block cold callers and sales calls. 

How do I sign up to it? 

You can sign up for free online. Click ‘vous êtes un consommateur,’ ‘inscription’ and ‘démarrez votre inscription’. You will then be asked to enter your details.

You will then be sent a confirmation email that will ask you to verify your subscription. Your number will only be added to the list after you have done this. 

If your number is added to the Bloctel list, you should stop receiving calls from companies and third parties within 30 days, apart from in a small number of cases. 

For example, you may still be contacted by public services, survey bodies, and charities if you have previously shared your number with them. 

Is it effective?

Debatable. Some people on the list say that they still receive calls despite having signed up to Bloctel. 

And a study of 12,000 people published in 2017 by consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir found that 82% of respondents were still receiving the same or nearly the same number of cold calls as before.

The centre-left parliamentary group, Ecologie, démocratie, solidarité called for further legislation to control cold-calling in May 2020. 

It claimed that since the beginning of 2018, 200,500 people on the Bloctel list had reported that they were still receiving unsolicited calls.

The French Senate has stated that only 700 companies have complied with Bloctel rules and withdrawn listed numbers from their phone lists. 

One MP proposes that it should be changed to be an ‘opt-in’ cold call service rather than opt-out.

Around 1.4 million reports of unauthorised sales calls have been made by 280,000 people since the scheme began.

What other laws exist in France against nuisance and cold calls? 

Since September 1, 2020, individuals who make unsolicited calls illegally can now be fined €75,000, while companies may have to pay up to €375,000. 

Previously, such fines were capped at €3,000 or €15,000. 

Read more: France: Law against phone cold calling in place now

What else can I do if I receive nuisance calls? 

  • Write down the name and telephone number of the company that has called you. By filling in a Bloctel form, you can pass this information on to the government’s anti-fraud department, the Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF), which can use it to identify who is making the calls.

  • Do not sign anything. Some companies will ask you to sign a document to confirm that they have called by telephone or at your door. Don’t sign anything in the heat of the moment. Take your time to read over as it may involve a contract. 

Connexion readers have also offered other tips to deal with cold calls. They include:

  • “Ask them if they can speak English. They immediately end the call and the calls dry up.”

  • “Tell them you are a locataire [tenant] (rather than the propriétaire (owner)), which means you rent and don't own.”

  • “We have an answering machine that we have set to respond in English. [They] rarely get past the first few words before they hang up.”

  • “I have set my phone to a different ring if it is a number that is not in our phone book. That way I just let it go to the answerphone and if it is something important they can leave a message. We get lots of calls, sometimes late at night.”

  • “I now only answer my phone after the fourth ring, by which time most have hung up!”

Read more tips here: ‘Just speak English’: readers’ tips on tackling cold calls in France

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