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Nuisance Telephone Calls ‘Overhaul Needed’

There is an industry run service that is supposed to prevent unsolicited marketing calls but unfortunately the service does not appear to be working correctly (according to a consumer survey carried out by Which?)

Those who are subscribed to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) should not receive cold calls from any company without having given prior permission for them to be contacted. Which? said that people registered with TPS still receive double the average number of cold calls than those not signed up.

TPS is not a government funded initiative – it is subsidised by the direct marketing industry. The TPS is a register that allows consumers to opt out of receiving any unsolicited communications.

It is a legal obligation that organisations do not make any calls to anyone registered on the TPS unless they have the express permission of the owner of that number.

According to the survey, most TPS users that were interviewed about the service were reportedly unhappy with the results.

Around three quarters of UK telephone numbers are registered with the TPS – this equates to around 19 million.

"While people registered with the TPS report a decrease in nuisance calls after signing up, they received on average 10 unsolicited calls in the last month," the group said. "This compares to five on average for those who have not signed up."

About six in 10 people registered with the TPS are not satisfied with the service, Which? added. It sampled 2,070 people in the UK.

"Consumers are sick and tired of being bombarded with nuisance calls and texts," said Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd. "The current system is failing the public and given the scale of this problem, it's time for the government to step in. We urgently need to see a new approach, new laws and new technology to tackle this scourge on people's lives. People must be put back in control of their personal data."

Following their investigation, Which? called on the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), the Ministry of Justice, Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading to form a taskforce that will work together with the intention of eliminating nuisance calls.

The good news is that ICO does have the authority to issue fines up to half a million pounds for breaches of the regulations on unsolicited calls, texts or emails.

So what impact does TPS have on the marketing industry?

If outbound calling is planned strategically and handled responsibly, a marketing consultancy or outbound sales department will find that the TPS is not the enemy – it can actually save a lot of wasted time and effort.

There is no point whatsoever contacting a customer that is going to tell you where to go as soon as you start talking. This is a complete waste of time and resources. If a consumer or business is willing to accept your call then they are at least interested in giving you a chance to pitch your products or services. Taking the right approach during the first few seconds of a conversation could be the difference between a sale and a fail.

Of course there are consequences for persistently breaching the regulations. Huge fines can be imposed on companies that fail to adhere to the guidelines and persistently contact those on the TPS.

Under the data protection act, data has to be updated and cleansed regularly – a contact that was not on the TPS two months ago could have registered since. This highlights the importance of keeping a database up to date.

Nobody wants their privacy invading and just spare a thought for the elderly that struggle to get to the phone only to be faced with a cold call after all that effort.

Don’t waste time on unauthorized data processing; focus on researching your target market in more detail in order to select relevant, new and potentially prosperous contact information. There are some top quality data suppliers out there that follow the regulations and select prospects carefully based on the verticals needed – find one and use them (or risk a £500,000.00 fine!)