TPS awareness issue fuels fears of mobile bombardment

mobile.newBrand owners could be inadvertently scuppering their mobile marketing efforts – and sending millions of unwanted communications – simply because UK consumers do not realise they can register their mobile numbers with the Telephone Preference Service.  

That is one of the key concerns to emerge from a study of over 2,000 nationally representative UK consumers, carried out by the DMA, which operates the TPS on licence from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The research has been published on the DMA’s website but, given its conclusions, it is perhaps not surprising that the results have yet to released to the media at large.

It shows that nearly half of all Brits (44%) have never even heard of the TPS, while, of those who have, 60% have registered their landline but only 40% their mobile number, raising questions about whether consumers realise they can register their mobile.

This lack of awareness is even more worrying as mobile phones are now the device of choice for most consumers under the age of 75; and the device of choice for marketers looking to reach them. But if consumers do not know how to opt-out then they could become disgruntled with marketing calls and texts and therefore disillusioned with the mobile channel.

According to the DMA study, when it comes to reasons for registering landlines/mobile numbers, most consumers want to stop undesired marketing calls (62% landline; 49% mobile), but also to maintain their privacy (34% for both) and stop silent calls (39% landline; 33% mobile).

Interestingly, people are more motivated to register their mobile (18%) number than their landline (10%) when they see negative stories about a brand in the media.

On the other hand, consumers said the main reason for not registering their mobile number (28%) is because they were not aware of the service for that specific device. They also seem to be worried that the TPS would not work properly for mobile devices (16%).

And it would appear their concerns are somewhat justified; nearly a third (29%) of consumers said they felt they had received more unwanted communications from brands after registering their mobile number. And the data shows a similar situation for landlines, with 28% believing they have received more nuisance calls after registering.

Some in the industry insist this issue, which was first highlighted by Which? in 2013 but dismissed by the DMA, is due to lax security measures on TPS data, meaning it is allegedly easier for rogues to get hold of the file than to buy a newspaper.

For instance, in 2017, Decision Marketing revealed that the TPS does not – and has never – included any “seed” names, meaning there is no method in place to check if the file is being abused. It is not known whether this has been rectified.

In terms of awareness, meanwhile, another concern appears to be a lack of marketing for the service; most consumers learn about the TPS from their friends and colleagues (21%) but with TV (19%) and the Internet (18%) also featuring.

One industry source said: “This lack of awareness about the TPS is a huge concern but the question is who will pay to promote it? The DMA does not appear to have the budget and the ICO seems to have other fish to fry. However, something needs to be done before consumers are bombarded to death and the channel dies with it.”

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