Three-quarters of people want cold calling to be banned, according to a survey by consumer group Which?
It found big companies, including British Gas, BT and Sky, were "just as guilty" of using the tactic as scam callers.
Of the 2,092 people questioned by Which?, a quarter said they had felt intimidated by cold calls.
The Direct Marketing Association said the industry had improved but admitted "there is still some way to go".
Which? reckons the average consumer receives six cold calls a month, and found two-thirds of people surveyed had received at least one unsolicited call within the last three months.
It is not illegal for companies to seek new customers in this way, but householders can choose to opt-out of receiving cold calls.
So-called "silent calls" - where companies use "auto diallers" to phone multiple numbers but do not have enough staff to speak immediately to all those who answer - were also investigated.
Nearly a third of respondents reported being on the receiving end of "silent calls", 60 per cent of whom said they immediately hang up when it happened.
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, responsible for regulation of cold calling, said it was a case of "striking a balance between allowing legitimate businesses to continue to operate and the needs of consumers".
But Which? telecoms expert Ceri Stanaway said: "Cold calls are at best a nuisance and at worst an intimidating intrusion into our lives.
"Three-quarters of the people we asked said they'd like the practice to be banned outright.
"Reputable businesses should stop making sales calls to you if you ask to be removed from their contact database, but if that doesn't work you should report the company to the Information Commissioner's Office or Ofcom."
Ms Stanaway had the following advice about calls from apparent con artists: "Scam callers are more difficult to tackle, but start by screening your calls and if you do get a scam call, record as much information as you can - the name of the company and their phone number - and report it to your phone provider or Consumer Direct."
A spokesman for the Direct Marketing Association said: "The telemarketing industry has come a long way in improving its practices, but of course there is still some way to go.
"There is the need for businesses to make legitimate calls to customers and potential customers, however this should always be on the basis that they have indicated their interest in receiving such calls.
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