The ultimate nuisance call

Falling into the category of “you couldn’t make it up”, did you notice the story in the middle of August concerning the company fined £50,000 for making aggressive and unsolicited marketing calls? That, on its own, isn’t remarkable; what makes it stand out is the fact that the company in question sells a call-blocking service and device, designed to combat – you guessed it – nuisance and unsolicited marketing calls.

A one-off, perhaps? Sadly not. Another company has been fined £75,000 this week under virtually identical circumstances, marketing a device and service which the Information Commissioner’s findings described in identical terms.

Now, here at Simplify the Law we don’t like to point the finger at anyone. So you won’t see the names on this page, but you can read the ICO reports here and here. And when you consider the kinds of people who were receiving the unwanted calls, those reports make for pretty unpleasant reading.

Marketing – it isn’t all bad

We feel quite cross about this. There’s nothing wrong with marketing, but responsible businesses don’t behave like those two did. Marketing which is fair, appropriately targeted and does not prey upon vulnerabilities is good for business, good for the community and good for the economy. But it is tarnished by this harder, nastier strand of activity.

There are many products and services which it is reasonable to market, so that they come to the attention of the people they were meant for. Some things are designed to help the elderly, the infirm or the vulnerable: it’s OK to market those. What isn’t OK is to harass or bully people, or to mislead them, or to allow them to mislead themselves.

Unsolicited calls

So, we thought we’d just run over the main points about unsolicited calls. It’s really quite simple.

Unsolicited marketing calls can’t be made:

  • to people who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service; or
  • to anyone who has specifically told the caller that they don’t want them.

The Information Commissioner has power to issue penalties for breach of up to £500,000. If that doesn’t scare you, think of it as half a million.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

Now, just to be clear, the TPS is the free service with which anyone can register. The service offered by the offending companies was an enhanced, paid-for service, seemingly able to prevent nuisance calls more effectively. But the law – and therefore good practice – is clear: if someone has registered with the TPS, don’t make marketing calls to them. They have no obligation to take other preventive measures. And why should they?

The Corporate TPS

What is less well-known is the Corporate TPS (CTPS). Businesses can register for the CTPS and have the same degree of legal protection from unsolicited calls. They can register any or all of their numbers. The downside is, of course, that they may miss something that they want to hear.

The CTPS, unlike the individuals’ TPS, is not indefinite. While free, it is subject to renewal each year. The individual TPS, on the other hand, lasts until revoked by the individual.

Automated marketing calls

This is even stricter: you can’t make them to anyone unless they have agreed to receive them.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Contracted-out marketing

We’re sure that we’re preaching to the converted, here, but there’s one further point to consider. If you contract out your marketing to an agency or another form of resource, check what they do and how they do it. They may be liable for any illegal marketing, but it’s your reputation that will suffer.

That’s something else simplified for you. At Simplify the Law, we live to serve.

More on simplifying

Featured image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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