PEOPLE across the North-East and North Yorkshire who were woken in the early hours by an automated call for the second morning running have demanded a full-scale inquiry to track down those responsible.

Many people have been disturbed from their slumbers, between midnight and 6.30am.

Expecting it may be an emergancy or bad news, they answered - only to find it was a message from an unidentified company promoting a Government scheme to install solar panels.

Loading article content

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is responsible for tackling unsolicited markering calls, said it is aware of the problem and urged victims to report the incidents, so the culprits can be traced.

Charles Higginbottom, 84, of Swan Street, Darlington said: “At 4am, the phone went and a recorded message tried to get me interested in a Government grant for solar panels.

“I have a friend who is in critical condition at the moment and I thought it was bad news, my heart was going like the clappers.

“I was frightened and I couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards.”

He added: “I live in sheltered accommodation and we are all of an age here. There could be a fatality because of this - someone could have a heart attack. “This has to be investigated and it has got to stop.”

Denise Ellis, of Darlington, said: “I got a call at 6.30am yesterday (Thursday) morning 6.30 and then 2.10am this morning.

“My neighbour is not well and I thought it was bad news. I told her if she needs to ring tonight my landline is going to be unplugged.. I shouldn’t need to. It is an invasion of my privacy.”

A spokesman for the ICO said: “The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) regulates the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which cover electronic marketing, including live and automated marketing calls, text messages and emails.

“The regulations require companies to have a person’s consent before making an automated marketing call to their number.

“Any company that fails to do this is in breach of the regulations.

“Where we are able to demonstrate those calls have caused financial damage and distress we can issue penalties for up to £500,000.”

He added: “We are aware of a high number of automated calls made in your region over the last few nights and are advising anyone who has received such a call to send us the details using our online reporting tool at www.ico.org.uk.”

Anyone without internet access can contact the helpline on 0303 123 1113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.

PhonepayPlus only regulates premium rate services charged to a phone bill – from TV voting lines to adult entertainment.