From May 16 2016, any company in the UK engaging in telephone direct marketing activities will be subject to a new law that forbids them from withholding their number from the recipient’s caller display. It is estimated that one in five marketing calls is currently made from a withheld number.
Cold calling is of course often used by claims management companies (CMCs) to seek new customers, but companies in all business sectors need to be aware of the new requirements.
Companies that breach the new law could be fined as much as £2.5 million – £2 million by communications regulator Ofcom and £500,000 by data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Companies must also note that the requirements apply to all companies registered in the UK. So any company registered in the UK, but which has its main operations overseas; or one which trades in the UK but outsources telemarketing activity to an overseas company will still be subject to the new law.
Government minister Baroness Neville Rolfe, who has responsibility for data protection issues, said:
“Nuisance calls are incredibly intrusive and can cause significant harm to elderly and vulnerable members of society. Government is committed to tackling this problem, which is why we are making it easier for consumers to report companies by forcing them to display their phone numbers.
“We’re sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them.”
ICO head of enforcement Steve Eckersley said:
“Any change that makes it easier for us to track down companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause.
“We do investigate unscrupulous companies who hide their identities, and we can track them down, but it certainly makes our job more difficult.
“When people are able to identify the number behind the call they have received they are more likely to complain and that means we are able to take action.”
The ICO has invited consumers who continue to receive calls from withheld numbers after May 16 to note the time and duration of the call, and to report the matter to them.
This new law follows a previous change in the law, under which action could be taken against cold callers simply because their communications inconvenience the recipient – previously action could only be taken if the calls resulted in material distress.
CMCs have been repeatedly warned by their regulator that cold calls cannot be made to anyone registered with the Telephone Preference Service, or to anyone who has actively opted out of receiving these calls. Automated calls and marketing texts can only be made where the recipient has specifically informed the company they do not object to receiving these.