Consumers to be protected from rogue telemarketers

- A Government Act to protect the consumer from receiving unwanted "cold calls" from rogue telemarketers will come into force in October, and is to be implemented by the Direct Marketing Association.

- A Government Act to protect the consumer from receiving unwanted "cold calls" from rogue telemarketers will come into force in October, and is to be implemented by the Direct Marketing Association.

Additionally, it will become illegal for companies to send unsolicited faxes to consumers, although business-to-business faxes will be unaffected by the change in the law.

The DMA has been working with bodies such as Oftel, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Office of Fair Trading and the Data Protection Registrar, to make registration with the telephone preference service -- a DMA-run scheme by which consumers can register themselves as unwilling to be cold-called -- mandatory rather than voluntary.

Under the new regulations, it will become compulsory for companies which use telemarketing to use the telephone preference service to check whether or not an individual has requested the screening.

The proposals are expected to meet with dissent from around one-fifth of the companies that use telemarketing in the UK.

Colin Lloyd, the chief executive of the DMA, explained: "20 per cent of all outbound marketing calls are made by people that we'd rather were members of the scheme. It is unfortunate, but there is a fringe element of companies over which we have very little control. These are the people that phone you at dinner time, or when you are in the bath."

The DMA has systems in place to dole out varying levels of penalty to offending companies. In the first instance, the DMA will work hand-in-hand with the company to put them back on the straight and narrow; secondly a "name and shame" campaign in the press will appear for more serious misdemeanours; thirdly the company can be reported to Oftel which will withdraw the use of the telephone numbers under the Telephone Licensing Act; and, in the final instance, companies can be referred to the director of public prosecutions.

The Department of Trade and Industry began a month-long consultation last week with the industry prior to implementing of the new rules, contained in an EU directive which must be enforced by 24 October.

The Government is hailing the directive as a major step forward in safeguarding the consumer's right to privacy.



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