Telemarketing sales under threat

Outbound telemarketing sales are at a critical point, according to a new action group.

Call For Action On The TPS (CFAOTTPS) has said that companies are continuing to sell through outbound calls while unaware of a government bill that is likely to have wide-reaching consequences. (The TPS part stands for Telephone Preference Service.)

The Digital Economy Bill currently making its way through parliament includes a section that instructs the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to produce new direct marketing guidelines.   

CFAOTTPS has said that the ICO is under pressure from the public and popular press to cut down on nuisance telemarketing, which could have knock-on effects for legitimate telemarketeers.

“To get an idea of how restrictive rules may get there is a very real possibility that an opt-in only rule for talking with consumers would mean telemarketing companies could not contact any sales prospects, or even existing customers, unless they have specific written authority to do so,” CFAOTTPS said in a statement sent to Glass Times.

“The opt-in rule is considered to work for email marketing, and is viewed by many as the solution to nuisance calling. The current TPS rules may be restrictive, but what replaces it would kill off outbound sales calls.”

During debates on the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons, direct marketing came in for criticism. Mark Menzies, Conservative MP for Fylde, branded marketers as being the lowest of the low, and that they could not be trusted to abide by regulations.

“The companies that overwhelmingly engage in direct marketing are rogues and shysters,” he said. “I say to ministers and officials that we are basing a law on the hope that we are dealing with honourable people. We are dealing not with honourable people, but with the lowest of the low. They are people who are prepared to break the law as it currently stands and to prey on the vulnerable in their tens and hundreds of thousands.”

Such criticism was matched by Labour MP Graham Jones, who declared there is a lack of transparency surrounding opt-in opt-out rules, and that it is a scam that generates large volumes of junk email.

“Ultimately, it is a scam in which information is sold on,” he said. “Then we get that abundance of unwanted emails because someone has commercialised our data. That bulk commercialisation is unacceptable, and the government have to step in.”

CFAOTTPS said the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the data screening system under which telemarketing currently operates, is flawed.

“It has not worked effectively for a decade, if it ever worked at all,” it said. “Currently it is a rogues’ charter in which members of the public receive nuisance calls, and ethical companies find themselves increasing marginalised as those that ignore the current rules avoid detection, or if they are caught simply go into liquidation and start up under a new name. It is a no-win situation for anyone but the lawbreakers.”

An opt-in system would make matters worse for the public, CFAOTTPS said, because it would leave the market open to rogue callers who ignore rules and would have the field to themselves.

“Those prepared to risk getting caught on the basis that they will never pay a fine, and others that operate from overseas with impunity, would be given free reign,” it said.

“In the meantime, ethically compliant companies would lose huge amounts of sales.”

CFAOTTPS was formed to come up with a viable alternative to TPS. Any company or organisation involved in telemarketing can join and contribute ideas, including those involved in the home improvement sector. 

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