Decision Marketing is launching a campaign aimed at building industry support to urge Ofcom to rethink how the Telephone Preference Service operates so legitimate direct marketers can finally distance themselves from the rogue operators which are threatening to bring the sector to its knees.
The “Call for Action on the TPS” campaign follows mounting concerns that the 17-year-old service – run by the DMA under licence from Ofcom – is no longer fit for purpose as it fails to prevent so-called nuisance calls from getting through.
The issues are numerous and complex.
For instance, research constantly shows that even after signing up with the TPS, people still receive, on average, double the number of unsolicited calls than those not signed up.
A recent Which? study showed that while people who registered report a decrease in nuisance calls, they received on average 10 unsolicited calls in a month. This compares to five on average for those who have not signed up.
One theory for this is that when members of the public register with TPS there is a 28-day window in which companies are allowed to continue to call them. By registering on TPS, individuals flag they have an active number and therefore will receive an increase in the number of calls.
Even after 28 days, calls may be received in higher numbers than before TPS registration. Some believe the benefit of calling what is known to be an active number is too good an opportunity to miss for rogue callers.
On the basis they ignore TPS rules to some degree or completely, then they will focus on what are considered good targets, and members of the public telling anyone with access to TPS screening data that their number is live and active is fair game for some even after the 28-day period.
The latest figures from Ofcom’s reveal there are 25.6 million UK residential landlines, and 91.5 million mobile subscriptions in the UK.
There are 19,517,305 landlines that are TPS registered, although 40% – 7,806,922 – are dead. Meanwhile there are 3,264,074 mobile lines that are TPS registered and 30% – 979,222 – of these are dead too.
Ofcom has a duty to remove TPS registration status from telephone numbers when the party that registered for TPS forfeits a number.
However, the regulator does not make public any numbers for this, though it is estimated that this could run to tens of thousands per month. There are even claims that some members of the public receive new numbers that are registered on TPS without their knowledge.
Even the TPS itself recognises that there is an issue. It recently posted a statement on its website which read: “We are aware that in recent months there has been a rise in the number of unsolicited calls being received by people registered on the TPS.
“These calls mainly from companies that deliberately ignore the law and either hide or disguise their identity. They might withhold the number they are calling from or display a fake number. They sometimes use generic sounding names that cannot be used to accurately identify an organisation, such as Solar Panels UK, PPI Claims Ltd etc or they may refuse to give you any details at all. Understandably this makes contacting these companies or targeting them for enforcement extremely difficult or even impossible.
It concludes: “There are thousands of calls every day from companies like these trying to benefit from short term financial opportunities based on generating sales leads for things such as accident claims, PPI claims, solar energy installation, and insulation grants etc.”
Decision Marketing publishing editor Charlie McKelvey said: “We understand this is a delicate issue. Nuisance calls are the bane of consumers’ lives and at the top of the agenda for most MPs. The last thing we need is a knee-jerk reaction from Parliament to make telemarketing opt-in only.
“We do not profess to have the answers, we are not experts. But there can be no disputing the fact that something needs to be done and difficult conversations need to be had. Surely there is a better way? Legitimate marketing is being dragged through the gutter by those firms who ride roughshod over the rules.
“The Information Commissioner’s Office is doing a stirling job actively pursuing rogue companies, but by then it is often too late as the damage has been done. As an industry, we need to be proactive, not reactive.”
Initially we are aiming bring together interested parties so they can get involved in the debate. If you would like to join the campaign or simply provide your views on the matter, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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