Addressing the public's concern and tackling unlawful marketing companies
There are few issues that get people as hot under the collar as nuisance calls, and rightly so. The majority of us will receive them at some point and at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) we receive more complaints about nuisance calls and spam texts than for any other part of our work – with the public reporting over 120,000 such calls to our office in the last year alone.
Of course, the law allows for marketing companies to contact individuals in order to sell them the latest product or service. What it does not allow for, is for people to be contacted when they have opted out of receiving live marketing calls – either by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or by telling the company directly. If your company is making this type of call then you must screen your lists against the TPS register.
For automated calls, the law is even clearer. No automated marketing calls can be made to anyone without their explicit consent. If your company doesn’t have consent to call then you are breaking the law.
As the regulator of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which cover marketing communications including calls and texts, we have the power to issue companies with a fine of up to £500,000 if their marketing communications are causing substantial damage and distress to those affected. We have already issued penalties totalling over a million pounds in the last few years, so it is important that companies get it right.
We are also working with the government to lower the legal threshold for our office to issue fines. We would then be able to issue fines at a much earlier stage to companies whose unlawful marketing practices are causing disruption or annoyance.
That is not to say that we don’t provide advice and support to those companies trying to carry out responsible and lawful marketing. Our direct marketing guidance (link here) provides detailed advice to help companies stay on the right side of the law, while our handy checklist provides a summary of the key issues companies need to consider. They should be considered as a must read for senior managers working in the marketing industry and a useful resource for those on the frontline.
We are covering this issue in more detail at this year's CCA Convention. Please click here for the link to our programme where you also register for the 1 Day MBA.