Sky block nuisance callers with Talk Shield

31 May 2017, 13:43   By Samantha Smith

SKY are to make a call screening service freely available from June 9th, enabling their Sky Talk customers to choose who to speak to before even being connected.

nuisance call elderly lady
Credit: SpeedKingz/

Sky say that Talk Shield is the first screening service of its kind, since in addition to identifying callers before connecting them, it will work on any home phone and without the need for additional equipment.

And in addition to the similar services available from BT and TalkTalk, it should hopefully cut down on the millions of nuisance calls members of the UK public receive each week.

However, given that the likes of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) are still recording increasing amounts of cold calls, it would seem that the mere existence of the relevant technology isn't enough to stop them.

Star and Block Lists

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What's clever about Talk Shield isn't simply that it enables people to accept or reject calls before being connected, but that they can also add accepted and rejected callers to the respective Star and Block lists, so that they don't have to vet the same numbers over and over again.

  • Accept the call for one time only
  • Accept the call and add the caller to Star List
  • Reject the call and add the number to Block List
  • Send the call to their Sky voicemail (if they have voicemail)

Source: Sky, Actions available when Talk Shield is activated and Sky customers receive a call

As shown above, the service also grants the ability to accept a caller for one time only, so that if they turn out to be less than reputable, the receiver will have the opportunity to block them the next time around.

Providing our customers with the very best experience across phone, broadband and TV is something that has always been extremely important for Sky
Lyssa McGowan, Sky UK

In fact, the Star and Block lists can be managed by customers via their My Sky accounts or their home phones, enabling them to correct any mistakes they may have made in assigning callers to particular lists.

It's precisely this kind of flexibility that makes the service a powerful one, and that has got everyone at Sky UK all excited.

Their Chief Commercial Officer, Lyssa McGowan, said, "The launch of Sky Talk Shield is another step in our commitment, offering a brilliantly simple and free service which hands power back to our customers, so they can stop the frustration and inconvenience caused by nuisance calls."

How effective?

Of course, the million dollar question is whether Talk Shield will actually reduce the numbers of nuisance calls made every day.

Such a question arises, not so much because of any doubts regarding the effectiveness of Talk Shield itself, but because the service is an opt-in one, requiring Sky Talk customers to activate it by "logging on to their My Sky account with their Sky iD and selecting Broadband and Talk."

It's therefore possible that many won't bother or won't even be aware of their ability to do so, leaving nuisance callers free to continue harassing them with promises of accident claims payouts or compensation for PPI mis-selling.

This, at least, is what's suggested by the experience of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which people with home and mobile phones can register with in order to make unwanted marketing calls illegal.

While the TPS is an entirely free service, only 3% of the UK's mobile numbers are registered with it, in comparison to 85% of landline numbers.

The lack of mobile adherents in particular is apparently the result of a lack of awareness, with only 48% of people aware of the TPS also aware that it's open to mobile numbers, compared to 88% when it comes to home phone numbers.


That awareness plays such a big role in usage indicates the possibility that only a percentage of Sky Talk customers will actually end up activating Talk Shield, even though it does offer robust screening.

And ultimately, such issues of awareness and uptake may go some way to explaining why ICO recently revealed they had their busiest ever year for cold calls in 2016/17, "issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923 million for nuisance marketing".

This is despite the existence of such services as BT's Call Protect and TalkTalk's Last Caller Barring.

Still, it can at least be hoped that Sky's phone and broadband customers will be motivated to use the new Talk Shield, and that the latter will end up taking a chunk out of the millions of pest calls made every week and month.

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