The Telephone Compliance Council, the organisation set up to address the regulatory threat to firms which rely on calling consumers, is launching a major probe into the impact of a proposed opt-in regime for telephone marketing, following concerns the move could spark the closure of thousands of businesses and with it wipe out tens of thousands of jobs.
It is believed a broad swathe of consumer service businesses would be hit hard by permission-based regulation that would preclude most companies from being able to make telephone contact with consumers.
Under the current draft of the EU e-Privacy Regulation, the only criterion under which companies are permitted to call members of the public is via explicit consent.
This would mean companies would not be permitted to contact customers about product and contract expiry dates, upgrades, cross-selling and service-based reminders, such as MOTs, eye tests, dental appointments and restaurant bookings unless they had gained prior consent. And with no provision for “legitimate interests”, an opt-in regime would in one fell swoop outlaw most sales and marketing calling.
Within the draft of the regulation there is a clause that allows individual member states to choose opt out outbound calling regulation, a measure which the TCC is pushing for. However, there is concern the UK Information Commissioner’s Office may be considering opt-in only regulation for the new direct marketing guidelines, that it will put to Ministers under instruction that comes from the Digital Economy Act.
As well as investigating the overall impact of consent-based legislation, the TCC will urge professional trade bodies to canvas members to assess the effect on income and jobs, which mirrors the TCC’s growing affiliation with industry associations, as well as a diverse corporate membership.
A TCC spokesman said: “It is important that we understand the full implications of opt-in regulation, and what the fall-out will be. There is a lot of concern, particularly among marketing professionals and small consumer-facing businesses that having to build and maintain a consent database is unfeasible. It would mean that, overnight, the successful business models of tens of thousands of companies would become untenable.
“This attempt to stop nuisance calls will not solve the current problems. The TCC fully supports robust regulation that protects the public from rogue or nuisance callers, but it believes implementing opt-in consent rules, which in effect would be a ban on currently legally compliant outbound calling, would leave the field wide open to those pirate callers that would merely expand their activity as they continue to flaunt current or future legislation. The TCC supports the ICO in firmer prosecution of those that transgress the current laws.”
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