'SHARKS' who make nuisance calls could find themselves before the courts after plans for a change in law were revealed.

Bournemouth University's Professor Keith Brown has spearheaded research that will allow for tough new legislation.

The changes will see an improved level of protection for the public against cold callers. Those who receive such calls will soon be required to opt in to receive unsolicited communications from organisations, whereas previously they would have had to opt out.

Choosing not to receive such calls would have required registration with the free Telephone Preference Service. Members of the public could also say they didn't want to be contacted again.

The new law will force the caller to make the necessary checks to ensure they have the recipient's consent before calling.

Those who breach the rules could be fined as much as £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Prof Brown, director of the National Centre for Post-Qualifying Social Work, said: “The new laws mean that people will now have to give consent to receive calls from these marketing companies.

"The Information Commissioner’s Office will also be able to pursue cold call ‘sharks’ more effectively to address the root cause of the problem. This should mean that we will all be receiving less unsolicited calls originating from the UK, which means less PPI and pension claim calls.”

Before the university's involvement, Trading Standards officers were tackling the issue alone.

"We are delighted that this change in law has occurred. It is a result of this combined pressure, which Bournemouth University has been leading, that has caused the government to make these changes," he said.

The university's research has been supported by Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns, who launched the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Crime and Scamming last year.

Prof Brown's team will now look to challenge banks and other financial organisations on the steps they can take to help identify customers susceptible to fraud.