While anyone working in legitimate direct marketing could not help but agree with the latest Which? initiative to encourage more consumers to complain about so-called nuisance calls, there are many issues standing in the way of progress.
For a start, most consumers do not even know where to complain. As Which? itself acknowledges, the 60,000 complaints that have been received so far this year are “only the tip of the iceberg”.
Yet, even by the Information Commissioner’s Office’s own admission, only 1% of consumers actually know the regulator exists, let alone that the ICO is where consumers have to go to register a complaint.
Surely the Government must do more to promote the ICO if it is really serious about tackling the problem?
Then there is the small matter of when you actually go to the ICO website to complain, the level of detail required would put off only the most determined and aggrieved.
For instance, you have to give out a raft of your own personal details, including your telephone number, then answer more questions than you could shake a stick at, including whether it was a sales call, a silent call, or a text message, the name and number of the company making the nuisance call, the time of day of the call, and the date of the call – they just keep on coming.
Nothwithstanding that the vast majority of calls are from withheld numbers – and therefore you are unable to complain about them at all – it’s a miracle that over 180,000 complained to the ICO last year at all.
Now, obviously there has to be a certain level of detail for the regulator to investigate a complaint but in this era of new technology, shouldn’t the telecoms providers be offering a free service whereby you can report a call at the touch of a button?
The truth is they don’t want consumers to get their hands on this service for nothing, as they offer a paid-for subscription for it. Also, they don’t want to come down too hard on the rogue firms because, surprise, surprise, it is a nice little earner for them to pipe the calls to your home in the first place.
So, come on Government, if you are really serious about stamping out this menace, give the ICO at least a fighting chance. The new regulations, passed in April, go some way but not far enough.
Mandatory use of caller ID would certainly help, and if the Which task force gets its way this could soon be adopted. I know it is something that the DMA would like to see. After all, it would benefit legitimate marketers as they would be able to go about their business in the knowledge that they weren’t being lumped into the nuisance call gang. Consumers would be able to see who was actually calling them.
Or do we really want to get to the situation where the industry is in such a torrid state that the Telephone Preference Service becomes opt-in only, like the German model? You decide…
Charlie McKelvey is publishing editor of DecisionMarketing.co.uk
This article was first published on the DMA website