Get serious about the data supply chain or your business will suffer

The Telephone Preference Service’s TPS Assured scheme, run by the Direct Marketing Association, is showing “slow” take-up by businesses. This doesn’t cast a good light on data marketers’ willingness to move with the times.

Michael Barnett

There is an undeniable “direction of travel” when it comes to the matter of personal data in marketing, as TPS head John Mitchison put it to me last week. Consumers are demanding greater control, while regulators and legislators – particularly in the EU – are showing ever more readiness to back them up. The DMA’s effort to bolster best practice with a certification for telephone marketing is only one aspect of it.

Nonetheless, the industry will be sending the wrong message if it continues to hold back from schemes like TPS Assured.

It got the UK Government’s seal of approval as a good opportunity for businesses to show (through a market-based approach, by the way) that they’re respecting consumers’ rights and the law as it stands. There’s a cost involved in doing so, of course, and an audit that Mitchison rightly wants to keep “rigorous”. But marketers need to see this for what it is – comparatively speaking, the easy option – and seize it with both hands.

The problem of nuisance telephone marketing is a serious one but all the more so when it’s put in the context of the EU’s new data protection regulation, which is waiting to be passed. The new law is almost certain to impose greater restrictions on marketers’ use of personal data.

That’s if the courts don’t do it first, with more decisions like the European Court of Justice’s ruling last week in favour of people’s ‘right to be forgotten’, which dictates that search engines must remove results linking to out-of-date information. 

There’s also revised guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office on existing data protection laws, released late last year. This took a more stringent view than before on things such as how long consumers’ consent for marketers to use their data lasts (generally speaking, six months) and to whom you can pass data when a consumer consents to third-party marketing (only businesses with relevance to the original communication). 

Instead of looking at TPS Assured and other industry-focused best practice schemes as something you have to pay for in order to prove you’re already obeying the law, marketers need to look at them as an opportunity to learn from the experts. More than that, though, such accreditation should be worn as a badge that shows your market that you know what’s expected of you as a data marketer today, and what will be expected in the future.

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