On 31st July 2013, the UK communications regulator, Ofcom, and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released a joint statement on tackling nuisance calls. This new regulatory and enforcement partnership enables more effective collaboration between the two organisations, who share responsibility for dealing with nuisance calls and text messages in the UK.
The two organisations previously operated independently, the ICO engaging with data protection violations around unsolicited calls and texts, while Ofcom tackled the often related problem of silent and abandoned calls. Both Ofcom and the ICO have undertaken a concerted crackdown on illegal telemarketing within their respective fields over the past year, with both organisations meting out increasingly heavy financial penalties to non-compliant businesses.
Last year, Ofcom handed down a £750,000 penalty to one organisation alone for excessively high rates of silent and abandoned calls, whilst the ICO have imposed several fines between £90,000 and £440,000 over the past 12 months to companies responsible for unsolicited telemarketing and messaging campaigns.
The new joint action plan declared the organisations’ commitment to a wide range of combined initiatives over the coming year, including targeted enforcement of penalties against non-compliant organisations, alongside an assessment of the effectiveness of the current Telephone Preference Service (TPS) in protecting consumers.
“Ofcom’s partnership with the ICO is welcome news, not only for the consumer, but for the telecoms industry as a whole,” commented Martin Taylor, Redwood Technologies Director.
“Poorly resourced and managed dialler campaigns that generate thousands of silent and abandoned calls are unacceptable, as are campaigns that target elderly or vulnerable people who have opted out of receiving unsolicited calls via TPS. Better collaboration between Ofcom and the ICO will bring enforcement of previously disparate data and telecommunications regulations together. This will place non-compliant organisations under greater scrutiny, asserting the rights and protection of the individual citizen whilst improving the image of the communications industry generally.”
Taylor continued: “Telemarketers could also benefit from bringing together the data and telecommunications sides of their business. Integrating outbound communications with relevant databases enables businesses to launch tailored telemarketing campaigns that are more relevant to the consumer, generating fewer nuisance calls and higher numbers of sales. We have seen some of our customers adopt this approach and raise sales conversion rates by as much as 33%.”
“Ultimately, these reforms to the way that our industry is governed will oblige many telemarketing organisations to review the way they operate. If telemarketers follow the lead of Ofcom and the ICO, and embrace the convergence of data and telecommunications, there are real opportunities to improve the way they do business, whilst at the same time avoiding business-damaging regulatory enforcement.”