Government to act on nuisance calls in new year

The Government is to launch a consultation into making nuisance call regulations easier to enforce and changing rules around consent for direct marketing, communications minister Ed Vaizey has told Marketing Week, with action likely to follow in the new year. 

Ed Vaizey
Communications, culture and creative industries minister Ed Vaizey.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Direct Marketing Association last night (31 October), Vaizey said he is “keen on seeing if we can change the regulations to make them more realistic”. Lowering the burden of proof the Information Commissioner’s Office needs to act against suspected offenders is one measure he cited with consensus support.

The minister’s comments came shortly after the publication of a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nuisance Calls, chaired by backbench MPs Mike Crockart and Alun Cairns, which Vaizey said has done “an amazing amount of work on the issue”, making 16 recommendations including those above.

Changing rules around consumers’ consent for direct marketing is, however, a “thorny issue” that could be difficult to implement, Vaizey admitted. 

The APPG’s report, backed by consumer association Which?, argues consent should expire after one year, but the DMA says this would hamper direct marketing for purposes such as contract renewals and wants a longer time limit.

Any new regulations are likely to be made using ‘statutory instruments’ that don’t require a vote, Crockart and Cairns said at the launch of the APPG’s report earlier on Thursday. These could take effect early in 2014. Vaizey confirmed: “We don’t want heavy-handed regulations that take months to get through Parliament.”

The consultations and rule changes will follow publication of an action plan by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, authored by Vaizey, which was originally due to be released yesterday (31 October). It has now been delayed to take into account the findings of a separate Parliamentary Select Committee report, and will come out “in the next few weeks”, Vaizey said.

Other measures he is believed to be considering include enabling data sharing between regulators Ofcom and the ICO, new standards around tracing and displaying caller IDs and a consumer awareness campaign using messages printed on phone bills.

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