The direct marketing industry may need to launch a new charm offensive in the corridors of power after one MP claimed the sector is overwhelmingly run by “rogues and shysters” who cannot be trusted to abide by regulation.
During the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill, which has passed to the next stage without a vote, direct marketing came under severe criticism by MPs with calls for the tightening of regulations.
The fiercest criticism came from MP Mark Menzies, Conservative MP for Fylde, who obviously likes to play to the gallery. He branded some direct marketers “the lowest of the low”, insisting that they could not be trusted to abide by regulations.
“The companies that overwhelmingly engage in direct marketing are rogues and shysters,” he said. “I say to Ministers and officials that we are basing a law on the hope that we are dealing with honourable people. We are dealing not with honourable people, but with the lowest of the low. They are people who are prepared to break the law as it currently stands and to prey on the vulnerable in their tens and hundreds of thousands.”
The MP urged Secretary of State for the Department of Culture, Media & Sport, Karen Bradley, to tighten up direct marketing regulations in the committee stage of the bill.
Not to be outdone, Labour MP Graham Jones was also highly critical, declaring there is a lack of transparency surrounding opt-in/opt-out rules, and that it is a scam that generates large volumes of junk email.
“Ultimately, it is a scam in which information is sold on. Then we get that abundance of unwanted emails because someone has commercialised our data. That bulk commercialisation is unacceptable, and the Government have to step in,” he said.
He also declared that the amount of direct junk mail is “outrageous”, and called for a new rules that would require senders to include a return sender address in all mailings that would allow him to, “…march down to my local postbox with all that junk mail I do not want to send it straight back to the company that sent it to me”. He hopes this would be an effective way of informing direct marketers not to send more mailings.
The Bill itself, which is government sponsored, has now passed to the committee stage. Members of the committee have not been named, but it will sit in October. The direct marketing sector has the opportunity to submit ideas and evidence for the committee to take into account. Submissions can be made via the parliamentary website.
Verso Group operations and compliance director Dene Walsh said: “Direct marketing, and telemarketing in particular, is a sensitive issue with the public and MPs, but we have the opportunity to put forward our case. However, this has to be in a constructive and diplomatic manner in order to gain traction.
“We are not going to get many chances to highlight the benefits and higher values of what we do, so it is important that we take this opportunity to be heard in an effective and responsible way.”
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