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Home Blogs Diary 2013 05

Eh Oh... award winning Teletubby discusses the future of the Corporate Telephone Preference Service

18th May 2013

I don't think I've ever said anything on this blog about the Corporate Telephone Preference Service. In case it doesn't ring any bells, it's an opt-out scheme that's supposed to stop unsolicited sales calls to organisations. Junk callers are legally obliged to check if organisations they want to harass have opted out, which should make it a welcome service.

Or is it?

Graham Smith, who works for the Direct Marketing Association's Teletubby Council and describes himself as an award winning, senior executive recently wrote an article about the future of the opt-out service. According to Mr Smith there are heaps of problems with the scheme:

  1. awareness of the opt-out scheme is poor;
  2. there's a lack of appetite for prosecution;
  3. the registration process is flawed; and
  4. it could be seen as a tax on reputable telemarketing companies.

Mr Smith's conclusion is that the end may be nigh. Many people are already asking for opt-out scheme to be scrapped – and we all know what happens when many people are asking for something.

Should we prepare for the end?

The Corporate Telephone Preference Service isn't going to be abolished. The opt-out scheme is dictated by the Privacy and Electronic Regulations. Unless the Regulations change the opt-out scheme will survive the pleas of many people. Still, it's an interesting discussion and worthwhile considering the above-mentioned arguments.

The first argument is rather bizarre. It surely is refreshing that a member of the Direct Marketing Association concedes that relatively few junk callers and organisations know about the Corporate Telephone Preference Service - but it's not exactly an argument in favour of scrapping the opt-out scheme. It merely shows that the Teletubby Council is failing to increase the number of junk call companies subscribing to the scheme.

The second argument is flawed for a similar reason. The Direct Marketing Association seems to assume that the Information Commissioner's Office can't be spurred into action. They should know better. After BBC Panorama highlighted the organisation's failure to deal with complaints about breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations they suddenly started taking action against junk callers that ignore the Telephone Preference Service. Perhaps the Direct Marketing Association could clarify what they've done to whet the appetite of the Information Commissioner's Office, rather than accept that nobody takes the Corporate Telephone Preference Service seriously.

Mr Smith's argument that the registration process for the Corporate Telephone Preference Service is flawed is an interesting one. The problem, according to Mr Smith, is that managers can register the numbers of all their staff, which can prohibit buyers from finding new products or suppliers with better or cheaper offers. It's a remarkably honest statement, but also a remarkably daft one. On what basis should managers not be allowed to register the phone numbers of their staff? Receiving unsolicited sales calls can hardly be called a human right. Why can't the Direct Marketing Association just accept that some organisations have no need for unsolicited offers and are able to shop around without the 'help' of cold callers?

The money argument is probably the main reason why junk callers resent the Corporate Telephone Preference Service. They have to pay £1,100 per year for the list with telephone numbers that are opted out while there are all those 'less reputable' cold callers that simply ignore the opt-out scheme (without being fined or prosecuted). If anything, this argument reinforces the arguments that more should be done ensure that all junk callers subscribe to the opt-out scheme and that offenders are fined.

In short, I reckon it's no good for the industry to complain about the inefficiency of its own opt-out schemes. I'm sure they'd like to scrap the scheme. In fact, I'm sure there are many people in the offices of the Direct Marketing Association who would like to scrap all the industry's opt-out schemes. That, though, isn't a wild card for incompetency and complacency.

Last updated: 
18th May 2013