The world has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell famously invented the first telephone back in 1876. Today, OFCOM reports that 93% of British adults personally own and use a mobile phone. The UK itself is home to 25.5 million fixed landlines.
For businesses, the abundance of telephones represents a hugely lucrative opportunity to connect with potential customers. Of course, given the fact that telephones are personal devices there are some restrictions that go hand in hand with unsolicited direct marketing calls. The British government enforces them and it’s essential that all companies abide by the rules.
So how do you know if your next business phone call could be breaking the law? Read on for an overview of the laws that are currently in place.
What is cold calling?
To abide by the laws you’ll need to understand exactly what it is that you’re doing. By definition, a cold call is an unsolicited communication from a party wishing to source new customers.
The Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999
In 1999, the government introduced the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations that enforced restrictions on unsolicited cold calls, as well as faxes and emails.
The regulations introduced the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), a central opt-out register that allows individuals to remove themselves from any unsolicited sales and marketing call lists. While the TPS was originally launched under the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations, revisions saw it switched to part of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 as amended by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2004. The regulations also introduced the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS). Similar to the TPS it allows businesses to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls. Both registers are operated and maintained by OFCOM.
What’s legal and what’s not?
While the concept of cold calling isn’t entirely illegal, there are strict restrictions in place dictating what methods can and can’t be used. Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, the use of automated calling systems is prohibited. This means any system capable of automatically making a series of calls to more than one number and transmitting pre-recorded sounds is out. That said, if the individual has subscribed to a service exceptions are made.
If a private individual or business has listed its number in the Telephone Preference Service register or the Corporate Telephone Preference Service register, unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes are illegal and should not be made under any circumstance. There is a 28 day grace period post listing, which means that if any numbers on the register are called during this time the caller will not be accused of contravening the regulations.
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