Currently, only individual subscribers can register with the statutory Telephone Preference Service and thus opt out from receiving cold calls. From 25 June 2004, all this will change with the introduction of “corporate TPS.”
New law: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2004
Under current UK law, all marketers proposing to make unsolicited telephone calls for marketing purposes must first of all check with the Telephone Preference Service. The check must be made as to whether any of the numbers that the marketer proposes to call have been previously registered with the TPS as numbers that are the subject of a direct marketing opt out.
A current limitation on this scheme is that only "individual subscribers" are able to register with the TPS. In other words, most business telephone numbers cannot be registered.
The issue came into focus in 2003, when the government was contemplating the implementation of the EC "Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive."
Article 13.5 requires EU member states to ensure by way of local legislation the legitimate interests of subscribers other than natural persons are sufficiently protected.
In the light of this, the UK government decided that it was time to extend the TPS to corporate subscribers, thus placing a heavy new restriction on unsolicited B to B marketing calls.
Despite heavy lobbying against the measure, the government made it plain in late 2003 that it was going to go ahead, although it did accept that time would be needed for industry to get accustomed to the idea and for working out the details. This would mean that the TPS extension would be introduced in early 2004, rather than at the time of the implementation of the rest of the directive on 11 December 2003.
Now it has been announced that the TPS extension will have effect from 25 June 2004 and the implementing Regulations have been published.
What will change
Corporate subscribers will be allowed to register their numbers with the TPS. Registration will be free, but unlike individual subscribers, who can register by telephone, corporate subscribers will be required to register in writing, for example, by post, e-mail or fax. This is in order to safeguard against bogus or inappropriate registrations.
A related provision is that Ofcom is obliged to remind corporate subscribers annually that their numbers are listed in the register, within 28 days following each anniversary of the date of that number being first listed. The regulator is empowered under the amending regulations to contract this function out, and it is anticipated that this will be delegated to the Direct Marketing Authority, which already administers the existing TPS service.
What happens next:
The new rules come into effect on 25 June 2004. It is not clear at present whether the TPS will accept registrations in advance of that date, but this seems at least a possibility.