BT puts telemarketing one step closer to oblivion

BT’s launch of a landline phone that claims to block sales calls is a canny piece of opportunistic marketing that taps into a very real menace for many UK householders. It also, however, puts another nail in the coffin of the telemarketing industry.

Russell Parsons

BT has unveiled BT6500 with the bold claim it can block up to 80 per cent of nuisance calls.

It works by offering users the opportunity to push a range of call types straight to an integrated answerphone. Withheld numbers, international and calls without a caller ID can all be sent straight to the answerphone. It also allows users to block up to 10 specific unwanted callers and, for a price, insists on the requirement callers must press a number before they dial, thus proving an actual person is behind the call rather than some nefarious fly-by-night operator.

There is certainly a desire among the UK public. As much as I have never suffered from nuisance calls, I am forever been regaled with horror stories from those that report hopping back and forth to the landline only to be met with silence, a robotic instruction or robotic human reading from a script.

BT itself claims to receive a mammoth 50,000 calls to its nuisance calls advice line each month (I wonder if its advice has now slimmed to, BUY THE BT6500). Elsewhere, Ofcom receives more than 3,300 calls from people calling to complain about silent calls per month. This number, I’d wager, is the tip of the iceberg given the telecoms regulator estimates 70 per cent of landline customers have received telemarketing calls in the second-half of 2012.

In launching the phone, BT is positioning itself as the altruistic combatant of the nuisance call menace but it has also spotted a commercial opportunity. There is genuine anger out there and although holes could probably be picked in the phone’s ability to deliver all it promises, it will be a success and herald copycat devices performing similar functionality.

There are plenty, perhaps even the majority, of decent and perfectly law-abiding telemarketing operators out there respectful of the boundaries of those at home. There’s also a growing number that couldn’t care less.The balance is in-danger of tipping.

Push back in the form of products such as BT6500 seek to legitimise the civil outlawing of nuisance calls and help put the stop on the irritants but they also leave the public with an even worse taste in their mouth about telemarketing.

The channel is in danger of heading the same way as door step selling – the marketing graveyard.

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