Who: British Telecoms (“BT”)
When: 16 January 2017
Law stated as at: 13 March 2017
BT has introduced a free service for its customers called BT Call Protect, which is designed to block cold callers. BT claims that the service could stop as many as 30 million calls per week before they reach customers.
The service uses new technology to monitor live data, identifying nuisance calls and adding them to a centralised blacklist, curated by BT. Customers will also be able to curate their own personal blacklists of specific numbers that they identify as nuisance callers, so that all future calls from those numbers will go straight to the customer’s junk voicemail service. Lastly, customers can choose to automatically divert specific number types, such as international numbers and withheld or unrecognised numbers, to send them straight to their junk voicemail as well.
Why this matters:
The task of maintaining the Telephone Preference Service was recently transitioned to the Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) which is also responsible for issuing fines against nuisance callers for breaching privacy laws (for more on this transition, please see our recent Marketinglaw article here). The ICO has continued to enforce record fines against nuisance callers, with the most recent being a staggering £270,000 issued against Road Accident Consult Limited t/a Media Tactics. However, neither of these actions directly addresses the often daily issue that many consumers face, of receiving nuisance calls. The intention is that BT’s new service will begin to stop nuisance calls at their source, rather than acting in a retrospective manner as the ICO’s fines do.
For marketers, time should be spent assessing how to go about calling customers. If your approaches are deemed to be nuisance calling by customers, then you will be at risk of being added to the customers’ own personal ‘blacklists’ (or to the centralised blacklist, if a large enough number of customers report your number) meaning that all future calls from the same number will be directed immediately to junk voicemail.
It does not appear that the BT- curated blacklist is publicly available, so marketers may not be able to identify whether their number has been added to this centralised blacklist or not. However, marketers will need to consider alternative ways of contacting customers with urgent issues (for example, by reserving a specific number for such calls, or using email), in case your standard marketing calls are being forwarded directly to the customer’s junk voicemail, which many may choose never to review.
It is anticipated that other telecoms providers will follow suit and begin to introduce their own competing call-blocking services.