Magazine article Marketing

Can Self-Regulation Avert Cold Call Law?

Magazine article Marketing

Can Self-Regulation Avert Cold Call Law?

Article excerpt

Alarm bells have been ringing this week as the telemarketing industry discusses the implications of a Europe-led move which could kill off cold calling.

After years of wrangles over the Distance Selling Directive, currently winding its way through the European Parliament, telemarketers now face another hurdle.

A select committee in Brussels last week tabled an amendment which, if successful, would require companies to get written consent from consumers before they called them cold.

Farewell to telemarketing?

There are fears that it could sound the death knell of the [pounds]10.4bn telemarketing industry. It argues that very few customers are going to bother to write back to companies giving their consent and that the added costs of doing that mail-out could cripple businesses.

"It could mean up to 40% job losses for those businesses solely involved in outbound telemarketing," says Colin Fricker, director of legal affairs at the Direct Marketing Association.

But this week industry representatives were keeping their fingers crossed that it wouldn't come to that.

"We think reason should prevail. We can't even consider defeat," says Fricker.

He promises that if next month's reading of the bill goes against them, there will be a mass lobbying of MEPs. But whatever the final ruling, the past week's events again raise questions about the whole telemarketing industry.

Fricker is trying to persuade other European countries to polish up on their practices so that no more legislation is needed. He is talking to Ireland, Belgium and France about introducing services to consumers to protect them from unwanted unsolicited calls.

This is what happened in Britain last January when the DMA, along with companies like BT, Mercury, the Glass & Glazing Federation and the Periodical Publishers' Association, set up the Telephone Preference Service.

Consumers who don't want cold calls can register their name, and the idea is that companies check the TPS lists whenever they do a telemarketing job.

The TPS has been publicised through leaflets from the telephone companies, and so far 70,000 consumers have registered. But, given that 1.7 billion telemarketing calls go out every year, isn't it a drop in the ocean? …

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