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Telemarketers beware: First fines handed to firms breaching TPS

25th Mar 2014
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Businesses with telesales and outbound marketing departments should consider themselves warned by Telephone Preference Service (TPS), that pleading ignorance to its 20-million-strong register won’t wash anymore.

Despite the challenges the TPS has faced in pushing for punishment for businesses who contact people on its ‘do not call’ list, it has finally been able to enjoy a long-awaited victory. Legal history was made when Dorset County Council Trading Standards Service pulled up south-west business, Apple Home Improvements, on making unsolicited telephone calls to TPS-registered numbers and making a ‘persistent nuisance’ of itself to elderly and vulnerable people. The result: a fine to the tune of £36,000.

While certainly causing annoyance and perhaps even upset, the kind of behaviour demonstrated by Apple isn’t necessarily considered illegal – a small but significant detail which makes it rather tricky for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to actually do anything about it. Which is why this is such big news. In this instance, the local authorities took matters into its own hands using the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, being the first regulator other than the ICO to issue a punishment for this kind of breech.

The TPS is hoping that Dorset County Council has set an example for other authorities and has began a trend in achieving justice for the perpetually pestered. With the last year or so having seen a rising crescendo of complaints regarding nuisance calls, this first-of-its-kind victory has come at just the right time.

The head of the TPS, John Mitchison, spoke out about what this recent triumph means for businesses. “Companies breaching TPS laws are now face a far greater risk of being prosecuted compared to this time last year, with over 200 Local Authority Trading Standards Services in the UK.

“Businesses using telemarketing as a part of their marketing mix need to be cautious when conducting the right checks on the data they use or buy. Screening against the TPS is an essential part of data compliance and companies need to take all complaints seriously.”

Meanwhile, Chris Combemale of the DMA has warned businesses of the perils of irritating their customers. “No company should ever want to be known for making nuisance calls. Doing so will damage their reputation, lose them customers and attract the attention of a growing number of regulators with the powers to issue steep financial penalties.”

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