In an outline of policy priorities, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport revealed it is looking at removing “barriers to enforcement” such as masking of phone numbers. It will also review whether the laws governing how companies obtain consent to call could be tightened as well as the legitimacy of the lists of prospects used by call centres.
The DCMS also confirmed it is looking at lowering of the number of complaints needed for the Information Commissioner’s Office to issue penalties. No further details were revealed but it has been reported the threshold will reduce from 1000 to five, providing the ICO with greater power to fine companies.
Ministers are keen to be seen to be taking the growth in unsolicited marketing calls, silent calls, abandoned calls, and recorded marketing message calls – seriously after a string of recent polls revealed the volume of calls and texts on the rise as well as the depth of the public’s frustration. A report from Which? earlier this month found 85 per cent of adults received a nuisance call or SPAM text in May.
In the policy review, the DCMS says: “Direct marketing in the UK is a legitimate activity. However, unwanted marketing calls and text messages can be a persistent and unwelcome feature of everyday life” it adds calls can be the cause of “ anxiety, inconvenience and distress”.
No legislative action will be taken until September at the earliest when MPs return from the summer recess.
Elsewhere, the DCMS called on the ad industry to protect the self-regulation system by maintaining funding through the levy voluntarily paid by brands.
“This levy is voluntary, but is well supported by industry; however, it will be important to ensure that this continues to be sustainable in the future. The relatively recent extension of the ASA’s online remit to cover marketing on companies’ own websites and on social media demonstrates the increasing importance of online advertising, and advertising spend in the future is likely to increase its focus on these online markets.
“Therefore, it will be important to ensure that this self-regulatory, industry-funded model remains sustainable for the future, and that the regulation ofonline and offline advertising alike can continue to be supported by the industry levy,” the DCMS adds.