Thinking of setting up a cold-call campaign to try and drum up some new leads? Perhaps you’re looking to buy a telemarketing list so you can target households or companies who’ve previously shown an interest in the type of products or services you offer.
Before you do any of these, you need to be aware of the legal ramifications. Because if you go into this sort of campaign blindly, you could find yourself hammered with a hefty fine, just like these examples.
The goalposts have changed when it comes to marketing calls. Since the introduction of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS), individuals and companies can now register to indicate that they do not wish to receive sales and marketing telephone calls.
So what are the implications for sales and marketing calls?
The fact is, if you’re making outbound sales and/or telemarketing calls within the UK, you’re now required to check the telephone numbers to make sure the individual or company is open to receiving such calls.
Since May 1999, it’s been an offence to make unsolicited calls to numbers registered on the TPS. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is now actively pursuing telemarketers who flout the law and are looking to exercise their enforcement powers by issuing further monetary penalties – not complying could prove extremely costly to an organisation’s reputation and finances.
What’s all this about the law being difficult to enforce?
On 6th April 2015, the law was changed, removing the need for consumers to prove that unwanted marketing calls were causing substantial distress and damage. Within four months of the change, the ICO issued fines to companies totalling £895,000 and has a further £1million in the pipeline.
Furthermore, under current legislation, which includes the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (commonly referred to as PECR), UK companies, charities and individuals are required by law to check telephone numbers used for sales and marketing calls every 28 days. You are required to remove any numbers that appear on the register and not to make any unsolicited calls to those numbers.
How will you know if a number can be legitimately called or not?
If someone has chosen to opt-out of unsolicited calls, their number will have been added to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) register, or in the case of companies, the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS).
At what point do you need to screen against TPS, and how regularly should this be done?
Screening against the TPS needs to be done prior to any direct marketing calls being made. It is not enough to phone to ‘check’ if it’s OK to make further calls (this would be classed as a marketing call in itself).
Once someone registers their number on the TPS list, all calls to that number should stop within 28 days. Therefore any process must ensure that data is screened at least every 28 days against the latest TPS list.
Also, if you have very old data and have never made contact with the individual, and then randomly contact them years later, there is a good chance there would be data protection issues – both in terms of retention and fair processing.
So what’s the best way to ensure you keep within the law?
By enabling our “Live” TPS Screening service on your account, you can ensure that all calls are automatically screened against the TPS database in real-time, meaning it is always up to date. This is fully compliant with TPS requirements and will give you peace of mind that you won’t face a fine.
We also offer you the option to upload a bespoke ‘Do Not Call List’. This involves sending us on a CSV file with the list of numbers to not call which we will upload to your account. This can work in tandem with the TPS screening or used as a stand-alone feature. This gives you the option to specify the action which needs to be taken if a number dialled is within the TPS Register and/or Do Not Call List. These options are:
3. Ask for consent
4. Warn and disconnect
The settings are configured via our online customer portal within the PBX or Trunk setting.
The advantage of using our dynamic TPS Screening service is that you don’t have to change anything on your end. The service doesn’t require you to do anything different or train your staff on how to use it. It’s effortless and hassle-free. You’ll also save time by not having to send data to a cleanser or sort through your data. Just upload your data and dial.
What if I choose not to screen against the TPS files?
Companies and individuals who appear on the TPS registers have chosen not to receive sales and marketing calls. As such, companies (including charities) who choose not to screen but subsequently call a number on the register can be fined up to £6,500 for each registered number they call. Further, higher fines can also be imposed if a breach is deemed severe enough to warrant it.
What is the difference between TPS and CTPS?
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a register of individuals, sole traders and partnerships who have chosen not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls. The Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) is a register of corporate organisations (Limited Companies, PLCs, schools, hospitals, charities, and Government Departments) who have chosen not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls.
Should I check against the TPS, CTPS or both?
If you are calling only domestic numbers, you need only check against the TPS register. If calling businesses, you must check against the CTPS and the TPS register.
Can I call my existing customers listed on the TPS / CTPS register?
The regulations state that you should not make any unsolicited direct marketing calls to any individual or organisation listed on the registers unless they have told you directly that they do not object to you calling them, i.e. they have taken a positive action that invites or opts in to receive sales and/or marketing telephone calls from you.
Where a customer subsequently registers with the TPS / CTPS, you may still contact the customer. However, it is good practice to clarify at the time you become aware that they do not object to your calls.
What if I’m not selling anything?
If you are genuinely not making a call with an end purpose of making a sale, i.e. for pure market research, then you do not need to screen against the registers. That said, if you make what starts out to be a research call to someone on the register, then during the call it becomes a sales call, or if you call with market research one day, then the following week call again to try and sell them something, this does require screening. This practice is commonly referred to as “Sugging” – Selling Under the Guise of Research – with a view to bypassing the TPS laws. It by-passes nothing, and the practice carries the risk of severe fines.