Telesales businesses offering everything from holidays to books suffered a set-back in the European Parliament this week when a clause restricting “distance selling” was reintroduced.
Distance selling covers all selling techniques where neither seller nor buyer come into physical contact with each other. It includes transactions conducted using the phone and other electronic methods. The European Union has been working on a Distance Selling Directive for three years.
Now a clause demanding prior consent on the part of consumers before they are contacted by telesales companies has been reintroduced at the committee stage of the European Parliament. This means an effective ban on cold calling. The clause was removed from the directive two years ago.The directive faces its final reading next month.
Since prior consent must already be obtained for fax communications between businesses and consumers this new clause would mean companies would need written consent from consumers before contacting them.
“This would be fatal to cold calling and would hit an industry, telebusiness, which the Henley Centre says is worth 10.5bn a year and employs 800,000 people,” says Colin Fricker, the director of legal and legislative affairs at the Direct Marketing Association. Fricker says if the clause were to go through in its present form up to 40 per cent of telebusiness jobs could be at risk.
Since 1993, when the clause was removed after a lobbying campaign from the European direct marketing industry, European elections mean new members of the European Parliament will be looking at the issue.