Hot on the heels of Ofcom’s new figures showing that 71% of landline customers receive unwanted nuisance calls, BT has launched a new handset designed to alleviate the problem.

Available to buy even for non BT customers, the BT 6500 is already generating serious market attention due to BT’s claim that it can block up to 80% of unwanted calls.

They include all calls from international numbers as well as withheld numbers and a further 10 numbers specified by the handset’s user.

Ofcom’s research, published in its annual Consumer Experience Report, reveals damning statistics about the UK population’s experience of unwanted phone approaches. It shows that during a 6 month period in 2012 the percentage of people who have received a silent phone call (usually generated by an automated dialling system) has increased to 47% - double the figure from the previous year.

During the same six month period 68% of consumers said they had received a recorded marketing message, whilst 71% had experienced an unwanted live sales call.

BT 6500BT themselves have reported that they receive on average 50,000 enquiries to their nuisance calls advice line every month. They have pointed out that whilst the Telephone Preference Service is able to block UK numbers, it cannot block withheld or international calls. The majority of PPI claims sales calls – identified by BT as a major nuisance culprit – come from international numbers, presenting the consumer with a minefield of potential nuisance calls at all times of the day and evening.

Offered at a recommended retail price of £69.99 for a single handset and £129.99 for a set of four, the BT6500 offers a number of useful call blocking features. As well as blocking international, withheld and specified numbers the handset diverts blocked calls to a voicemail service so that welcome callers can leave a message and their calls are not missed. Parental controls enable the bill payer to block outgoing calls to premium rate numbers such as mobiles and overseas lines. The ability to create a “VIP” numbers list means that even when the handset is set to “do not disturb” priority numbers will still ring.

Before the launch of this new handset BT customers only had two call blocking options available to them aside from registering with the TPS. Going ex-directory has been shown to be ineffective in tackling the problem since the recipient’s phone number might be accessed via other means, including marketing lists and data previously collected. BT also offer a call blocking subscription service which costs £3.55 to choose and block up to 10 specific numbers. Blocking withheld calls then costs a further £4.50 a month.

BT are therefore presenting the 6500 as a cost-effective alternative to other call blocking services, since it only incurs the one-off cost of purchasing the handset.

The BT 6500 was launched on the 6th February and is available to buy online at discounted prices now.