To date, companies that utilise unsolicited marketing have been very hard to track down
Companies that utilise cold calling and texting to contact consumers are facing new rules in the UK.
New powers have been granted to the Information Commissioner’s Office
(ICO) to find such companies and issue fines of up to £500,000. The ICO is a watchdog responsible for guarding personal information, including contact details.
The ICO will, under the new rules, be able to seek information from both telecommunications and internet service providers to find out information about cold calling companies. To date, service providers have guarded such information, making it much harder to find rogue companies. In the last five years, only 19 such firms have been caught.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau
has estimated that 840 million unsolicited calls were made in 2009, just by firms offering to manage debt – an average of 38 calls per household.
The National Fraud Authority
says that Britons lost over £3.5 billion in 2010 due to marketing scams such as emails, text messages and letters. However, unsolicited contact is illegal – in order to receive marketing messages customers must have ‘opted in’.
A spokesperson for the ICO said: “Until now, we have been Number unsolicited calls every powerless to track down these firms, as telecoms providers refuse to hand over the details. Now we will be able to actively pursue those behind these texts and calls.
“Telecoms firms have split loyalties, as they want to protect their customers, but they make money from the people making these calls.”
There are several ways in which consumers can protect themselves:
- Sign up for the Telephone Preference Service, Mail Preference Service and Fax Preference Service. This means it is illegal for any companies to contact you for marketing purposes via these methods unless they have your consent – including charities and political parties
- Never give your details out to companies that contact you by telephone, text message, email, post or fax
- Ignore spam emails and text messages
- Always read the small print and opt out of future contact wherever possible – always make sure you check or uncheck the correct box