The Information Commissioner’s Office has sparked fresh fears that the new EU ePrivacy Regulation could enforce an opt-in regime for telemarketing in the UK by suspending the new tender to run the Telephone Preference Service.
The ICO, which took over running the TPS at the end of 2016, issued a Prior Information Notice (PIN) in April of this year, both to generate interest ahead of the tender being issued and to better inform its specification. The TPS has been run on licence by the DMA since its launch in 1998.
However, the ICO has told Decision Marketing that proposals in the upcoming Regulation, due to come into force next year alongside GDPR, cast doubt on whether or not the legal obligations to provide a telephone preference registration system would continue.
The DMA first raised the issue last month, warning that many EU decision makers are clearly favouring the opt-in solution. In a blog post, DMA external affairs manager Zach Thornton wrote: “The new legislation could impose a general opt-in for telemarketing in the EU, making it mandatory for telemarketers to obtain the individual’s consent prior to calling.”
Some degree of flexibility still exists in the legislative proposal, which would protect the UK’s opt-out, but it seems the ICO is not willing to start the process of issuing a new contract to run the TPS while there is still doubt over whether this can be achieved.
In a statement, the ICO said: “We took the decision to pause the re-procurement of the outsourced contract until the position was clearer. The PIN remains ‘live’ and interested parties who contacted us were notified of our decision.
“In the meantime ICO continues to run the current TPS service via the outsourced contract inherited from Ofcom, and has taken steps to integrate the information TPS is collecting into our intelligence and enforcement functions. The TPS service remains a useful tool for anyone wanting to stop live nuisance calls.”
In March, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham pledged to investigate concerns over the TPS after admitting she was completely unaware of long-standing criticism of the scheme. However, there has been no official statement since then.
The move followed the launch of Decision Marketing’s “Call for Action on the TPS” campaign.
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