British man turns the tables on telemarketers by charging them to call him

A British man has made a profit by charging companies to pay for incoming telemarketing calls (Press Association)

These days, Lee Beaumont is perfectly happy to get a call from a telemarketer. In fact, he’s the one making a profit from the unsolicited sales calls.

The BBC reports that Beaumont became so sick of getting calls from marketing companies that he changed his phone number settings so that incoming callers have to pay him a small fee to connect.

Since changing his number in November 2011, Beaumont says he’s made about 300 pounds ($464) from the calls. Using a service called PhonepayPlus, Beaumont charges incoming callers 10 pence to connect and additional charges for the longer he stays on the line.

"Because I'm getting annoyed with PPI phone calls when I'm trying to watch Coronation Street so I'd rather make 10p a minute," he told the BBC. “I want cold calls.”

Beaumont receives 70 percent of the take from such calls, adding that he now goes out of his way to keep telemarketers on the line for longer periods of time.

Beaumont says he fully discloses the charges when companies ask for his number. The “0871” line does raise some eyebrows with company representatives, but many still elect to pay for the chance to make a sale.

PhonepayPlus, the company Beaumont enlisted for his pay-to-call numbers, said it discourages individuals from setting up similar lines. "Premium rate numbers are not designed to be used in this way and we would strongly discourage any listeners from adopting this idea, as they will be liable under our code for any breaches and subsequent fines that result," the company told the BBC.

For his part, Beaumont said he keeps a separate, private number for personal calls.

"I don't use my normal Leeds number for anyone but my friends and family,” he told the BBC.

There are various options for setting up similar pay lines in the U.S., although most are targeted to individuals setting up a small business for ventures such as psychic lines or adult chats. Skype used to offer a service called Skype Prime, which allowed it to charge for incoming calls but that service has since been discontinued.

The Federal Communications Commission has established guidelines regarding “900” numbers in the U.S., but those rules seem to provide wiggle room for anyone who wants to follow Beaumont’s lead as long as they are doing so transparently.