Who: Department of Culture Media and Sport
Where: United Kingdom
When: 12 January 2016
Law stated as at: 26 January 2016
The Department for Culture Media and Sport (“DCMS“) has launched a consultation into proposals that would require direct marketing callers to provide a valid Calling Line Identification (“CLI“) number to anyone receiving their calls. This would mean that direct marketing callers would be prohibited from withholding their phone number from consumers.
The consultation period will run for 6 weeks from 12 January 2016 until 23 February 2016 and DCMS plans to implement any changes by spring 2016. The full consultation paper may be viewed here.
Calling Line Identification
A CLI is a telephone number that identifies a caller and displays the caller’s number on the recipient’s phone. The consultation paper explains that a valid CLI number is one which may be used in order to make a return call (i.e. it must be “dialable and not malformed”). Further, a valid CLI number must not connect the consumer to a premium rate service.
Changes to PECR
If implemented, the proposed changes would require an amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (“PECR“). As things currently stand, PECR allows any person or company to withhold their CLI when making a call.
One of the key drivers behind the proposals is the DCMS’ concern that direct marketing companies are abusing their existing right to make calls without providing a valid CLI in order to improperly make unsolicited marketing calls. Under PECR, unsolicited electronic communications sent for the purposes of direct marketing, without the consent of the recipients or there being an existing commercial relationship, are generally prohibited.
Why this matters:
The amended regime, which would apply to both live and automated calls, would strengthen the Government’s crackdown on nuisance callers. The consultation paper makes clear that the proposed changes to PECR are one aspect of a package of legislative and non-legislative measures to deal with this perceived issue.
As such, the changes have been designed to allow consumers to choose whether to reject marketing calls and also to more easily identify and raise complaints about nuisance callers. Obliging marketers to display CLI numbers is also expected to help the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO“) enforce against breaches of PECR.
DCMS have indicated that, if the changes are implemented, a failure to provide CLI by direct marketing callers may, on its own amount, to a “serious” breach of PECR, which carries the risk of a fine of up to £500,000 from the ICO. In addition, Ofcom has indicated that breaching any future CLI requirement may be considered a “persistent misuse” of electronic communications networks or services under the Communications Act 2003, with an associated fine of up to £2m.