Viewpoint: Beverley Flynn - Corporate TPS has yet to make presence felt

It may have passed by more quietly than other laws, but as of 25 June, all B2B telephone lists used for unsolicited telemarketing calls now have to be cleaned against the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (TPS). While this appears to signal the end to cold calling, its real effect remains to be seen.

The TPS will maintain a list of all numbers to help prevent receipt of unsolicited direct marketing calls. However, there's still debate as to what amounts to 'direct marketing' for these purposes. The Information Commissioner is responsible for the enforcement of the legislation and takes a wide view of activities that constitute direct marketing. As well as calls that offer to sell goods or services, those that seek to promote an organisation's aims or ideals would also be covered. So the TPS list may well apply to a call from a charity to appeal for funds or a political party for campaign support.

Inventive ways to circumvent whether a call amounts to 'direct marketing' and whether the TPS list will apply to the call may be used by those in the business. For example, pure market research is unlikely to be covered. While this sounds like good news, the Information Commissioner has indicated that he will take a dim view of disguising practices if they ultimately lead to promotional activity.

The most important fact to know is that only the telephone numbers registered on the TPS will be recognised. A corporate subscriber that has a variety of telephone numbers (such as switchboard and direct dials) will need to decide which of those numbers to register. If only the switchboard number is registered, but not the direct-dial numbers, then the direct-dial numbers will not be covered by the TPS list. As the impetus for the legislation stems from small businesses unable to deal with the volume of unsolicited telemarketing, these are most likely to register. Larger organisations may well only register certain numbers if their policy is such that the purchasing department will welcome such calls.

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