Call to prevent ban on sales calls to consumers

Call For Action On the TPS (CFAOTTPS) – the organisation formed to prevent a ban on telemarketing – is calling for representatives from the home improvement sector to join an executive lobbying team. 

The campaign body is creating a group to meet with government ministers and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to put forward new telemarketing regulations as an alternative to the opt-in only rule that is widely expected following the recent passing of the Digital Economy Act.

An opt-in only based regulatory regime would effectively deprive companies of the ability call members of the public. Even if an existing relationship were to exist there would have to be specific prior permission to call for any contact by telephone to be within the law. 

The new Act was passed as part of the government wash up before parliament closed for the general election, and under it the ICO will be instructed to draft new direct marketing and data practice guidelines. Its recommendations will go before ministers for consideration and implementation. Politicians clearly stated in debates on the Act that they are not in the mood to tolerate any weak or watered down measures, and nuisance calling is the most common subject of letters to MPs.

There is broad belief the ICO will put forward recommendation for an opt-in-based telephone rule similar to that which governs text and email marketing. It would effectively mean a ban on telemarketing. A government spokesperson has already said new regulation will be placed on a statutory footing, which means rule breakers appearing in court.      

Ministers do not have to abide by what the ICO puts forward, and part of the Digital Economy Act includes government instruction to the ICO to consult all relevant representative bodies as part of a review prior to formulating recommendations.

CFAOTTPS will put forward alternative regulation that protects the public and allows ethical companies the freedom to make outbound calls. It has already won success in persuading information commissioner Elizabeth Denham to review the existing flawed Telephone Preference Service. 

CFAOTTPS is creating a new executive from business sectors that are major users of telemarketing to meet with the regulator and ministers to put forward alternative regulatory reform. With the glass sector being one of the major users of outbound calling, representatives from it are being sought to work alongside counterparts from other business areas. 

One of the main arguments for less restrictive regulation is that a ban on outbound calls is likely to make matters worse for members of the public. Rogue calling companies that currently openly ignore current rules are unlikely to cease operating after they are given the field to themselves. If they are caught under new regulations those companies based in the UK will fold and re-emerge as they do when prosecuted under current rules, and the overseas offenders are untouchable by UK authorities. Rogue calling is likely to increase to fill the void left by compliant companies.

“If business sectors do not work together to point out flaws in an opt-in system, and do not put forward proposals that will protect both public and commercial interests, then it is very likely that sales calls to consumers will become a thing of the past,” CFAOTTPS founder and editor of Decision Marketing Charlie McKelvey said.