Concern over nuisance calls risks becoming hysteria

A week never seems to go by without some hard-talk being issued by someone in authority over nuisance calls and SPAM texts.  

Russell Parsons

Last week was no exception. Which? launched a complaints tool intended as a single portal for people who otherwise wouldn’t know which regulator to go to make a complaint.

Understandable and on message. The consumer group has been consistent in its attack on rogue companies, launching its “calling time” campaign lobbying Government, the ICO and Ofcom to get tough on offenders earlier this year.

What was particularly interesting were the comments of support for the launch from communications minister Ed Vaizey. The minister praised the launch and promised action to see “what else should be done to cut this nuisance off at source”.

Nothing particularly incendiary about this, granted. However, as is often the case when a politician spots an opportunity to take vote-winning action, they can often resort to sledgehammer tactics.

Concern about cold calling and SPAM texts is very real among the public. Which? is doing its job in demanding loopholes are closed and restrictions are put in place. The Government, however, is being led by what ministers believe is a weight of ill-feeling among the public.

An anonymous commentator on Marketing Week’s story about the launch of Which?’s tool warned of the dangers of “going overboard” and “killing an industry” that has actually done some good, listing scenarios where people have saved money on utility bills or claimed back mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance.

Not all making telemarketing calls are a nuisance, not all SPAM texts are useless. A blanket ban would hurt as much and as many as it would hinder. The Direct Marketing Association is right when it reacts to such stories by stressing that it is “rogue” companies that need dealing with.

I fear such a distinction might be lost on Vaizey and colleagues. 

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