We should fear the demise of the landline call facility

Are the appalling stories of cold calling fraud ruining an important social provision for older people i.e. the landline telephone?

It was important enough for Age UK Haringey to set up a telephone befriending service even though it now takes several messages before pick up. I am sorry I like my landline. 20 minutes of texting a decision for a social event can take 2 when you speak. However when YouGov asked me whether I thought landlines would be in use in 50 years time, I said no.

Why worry you say there are always mobile phones. These are, however, not suitable for someone hard of hearing, with arthritic hands or not able to read small numbers. Anything larger would be too heavy to hold at this moment in technology.

Lets try to improve the situation now. I phone up members of the Hornsey Pensioners Action Group (www.hornseypensioners.org.uk) and wonder why everyone is out.. Please phone back me back not say when we I meet you .“ You phoned!. Yet because friends living alone on basic pensions are reluctant to pay for 1471 or 1571 facilities it can be very difficult to make contact. If I am lucky a nervous little voice answers after a long wait. All telephone companies must make them free. Call displays can now be free if you have such a telephone even though you have to agree an annual contract with a company you have been with for 40 years. But even with displays you can miss the number if slow to pick up. The displays need to be larger and with more detail. At last I realised that the number of the energy company I don’t want to use anymore starts with an 03. Seeing the words International Number displayed I wondered why the fraudsters were phoning so late and put down the receiver on my Icelandic granddaughter trying to wish me Happy Birthday.

Yet the elderly can still defeat the cold callers. My friend Henry was proudly telling a stranger he was 99 but before I could take the receiver firmly stated that he never gave his bank details on the phone. A relative of one of our members took so long to get ready for the taxi the fraudsters provided to take him to the bank, the taxi went away. I enjoy the embarrassment when I tell the callers I am not Mr. Anderson. Its just my “muddy” Londoner voice. The charity to whom I pay an equivalent of £1 week will now lose that for phoning up to ask for more. Despite their effusive thanks.

I do worry though if there is a real government clamp down on cold calling that all those young graduates now working at call centres and helping the employment figures to improve will be redundant.

by Ann Anderson