Spooner on…let’s fix the TPS for the sake of us all

spooner-new1Ineluctable: unable to be resisted or avoided, from the Latin ineluctabilis; ‘in’ as in ‘not’ and eluctari, to ‘struggle out’ – so – something that we cannot struggle out of.
I use this word not to parade my education (in the world of Google all facts are equal) but to describe the dull, repetitive, and yes, inescapable low-level interference, stress and anguish caused by irresponsible cold callers.
Who, these days, hasn’t been harassed by PPI pimps, solar panel salesmen and the vast gaggle of shysters, deceivers and con-men and their poor slave-call-centre-drones?
Certainly (and very sadly) not those who have signed up to TPS.
Which is why the estimable Charlie McKelvey and his DecisionMarketing team are launching a campaign to do something about said TPS.
If you would like to join the campaign or simply provide your views on the matter, please email call_for_action_on_the_tps@decisionmarketing.co.uk
There’s also an interesting article which offers a judicious overview of the current situation and why we should all, as marketing practitioners, at least sit up and take notice, or preferably get behind this magnificent organ and its public spirited campaign.
Before you dash to sign up, here are a few salient points to consider.
TPS really is a delicate subject: complaints about nuisance calls are at the top of every MP’s in-tray. The danger is, especially in these days of Twitter-policy that thousands of Angry-of-Tunbridge-Wells types will provoke a legislative, knee-jerk reaction. And in these dark days that could mean a move to make ALL outbound telemarketing illegal – unless companies have verifiable, opt-in data.
What we need here is something very rare in current British politics; a considered approach.
As marketing people (I nearly wrote ‘marketeers’ – a term I despise, though it does make us sound quite swash-buckling and gung-ho) we need to remember that although TPS might sound dull (and by Satan’s cloven hoof it is extremely dull) it is the engine of a massive telemarketing and data industry that keeps many a firm in business and even, when done responsibly, delivers genuine benefit to consumers.
That’s why so very few people will go on record to say ‘it is broken’.
And of course many of those people are terrified of putting their heads above the parapet, just in case, somewhere in the cascading convolutions and manifold complexities of their own businesses, they are themselves inadvertently calling people who have registered with TPS.
And now I place my all-but-lifelong membership of one of the UK’s most prestigious marketing organisations in mortal jeopardy: but it does very much seem to me that the DMA itself is reluctant to get involved. Could this be because it runs the TPS service on licence from Ofcom?
Although no money changes hands between Ofcom and the DMA, in the interests of fairness it does have to be put on record that the DMA accrues income from the licences it flogs to companies who by law have to use it. Is this tying their hands as agents of change?
Let’s face facts and apply ‘Spooner’s Law of Congruence’ here. I think it’s worth drawing a comparison between public bodies and domestic pets. Why? That’s the mystery of ‘Spooner’s Law of Congruence’.
For example, my enormous, sleek, ill-behaved, overly-entitled twin cats are 6 years old, which, folk-wisdom suggests, makes them both 42, which seems about right.
The TPS is nearly 20 and applying a similar folk-wisdom, is tottering towards 140 years old. It is ageing badly, looking a bit tatty, spavined, moth-eaten and worse-for-wear. In fact a few facts suggest that its mouse-catching days are over, as by its own admission:
40% of the landline numbers currently held on TPS are dead
30% of the mobile numbers are dead too
Ofcom quite simply refuses to release figures on whether these numbers have been taken over by other customers.
And post Brexit or not (see my previous article in these illustrious pages) we are also being flooded by calls from companies outside the UK/EU who don’t have to follow the TPS rules. The network operators can’t block them, however, because they are not allowed to by law (and it must be noted that the carriers also accrue income from these nuisance calls because they charge a carrier’s fee for every call which is connected).
Three years ago our own, dear DMA launched ‘TPS Assured’ as the gold standard of telemarketing. So far just three firms (Anglian Windows, Which? and recently Vodafone) have passed the ‘rigorous’ qualification process. Which raises the question, if the TPS is working properly why do we need that extra layer of best practice?
Now I’m no expert, I’m just used to considering telemarketing (at its best) as a useful tool in the marketing department’s armoury as part of our constant battle to create a mutually beneficial customer experience, where the client makes money and the customer enjoys an enhanced product or service.
But these are dark days indeed and, in a serendipitous irony, I was called by an earnest, wheedling, plaintive youth from (of all places) Bootle only an hour ago who was perfectly convinced that I had recently been involved in a road-traffic accident.
If we don’t sort this out soon, the pressure of public opinion will force the May Government’s hand and a perfectly acceptable aspect of our business will disappear and the tumbleweed will roll through the outbound telemarketing departments of this once great nation and lamentation will be heard in the corridors of Dundee, of Cardiff and of Newcastle.
I shall never forget Mr Ferris at Sunday School getting excited by Samuel v20 onwards: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph…HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLEN!
Get involved in DecisionMarketing’s excellent campaign by emailing call_for_action_on_the_tps@decisionmarketing.co.uk or we’ll all suffer, I like to think that’s what the prophet Samuel had in mind when he wrote those verses…

Jonathan Spooner is executive creative director at Tangible

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