Telemarketers accused of flouting cold-call regulations

Cold calls: telemarketing firms accused of flouting regulations
Cold calls: telemarketing firms accused of flouting regulations

The government-regulated service intended to allow people to block cold callers is being ignored by "cowboy" telemarketing companies, according to a BBC 'Panorama' investigation.

Panorama will claim in tonight’s (2 July) documentary that despite thousands of complaints from the public being lodged with the Information Commissioner each month, no fines have been imposed on offending companies for at least 18 months.

The government-regulated Telephone Preference Service (TPS), with which the public can register to prevent cold calls, is allegedly being ignored by some telemarketing companies.

Mike Lordan, the chief of operations at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) – the company that runs the TPS under licence from Ofcom – will claim in tonight's episode that some companies are ignoring the rules.

Lordan said: "Companies are not abiding by legislation and we should be seeing enforcement against those companies who are persistently breaching legislation."

The DMA believes the Information Commissioner', which alone has the power to enforce the rules, is not flexing its muscles and taking action against companies found to be breaking the rules.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner's office said that until this year, it did not have suitable legal powers to act.

Although it now has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000, the spokesman claimed that enforcing the rules was not easy, given the vast amounts of money that companies which flout the rules stand to make. 

Simon Entwisle, director of operations for the Information Commissioner's office, said: "At the moment we definitely are trying to take action against these individuals.

"We have only had the power to issue the fine since the end of January, so it's early days yet. The other thing I have to say is there's a lot of money to be made in this particular sphere."

Secret filming by the BBC in March at the Central Claims Group showed staff appearing to tear out pages from a phone book and calling people at random, while staff are also shown giving false company names to avoid complaints from unhappy members of the public.

In a statement, Central Claims Group said it took its legal and regulatory obligations very seriously and did not condone the lapses 'Panorama' filmed.

It added that it buys suitable legally acceptable data and has informed all employees that "using the ordinary telephone directory or introducing themselves as anything other than Central Claims Group will, if proved, be regarded as gross misconduct warranting summary dismissal".

In the UK, the public receives a total of three billion marketing calls a year.

Follow Matthew Chapman at @mattchapmanUK


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