New task force to help call time on nuisance calls and texts

Consumer group Which? has today been asked by the Government to set up a task force to help tackle the everyday menace of unwanted calls and texts.

The task force, chaired by Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) Action Plan on nuisance calls, and will bring together regulators, consumer and industry experts to review how consumers give consent to being contacted by marketing firms.

The Which? campaign Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts, launched a year ago, found that people are often unaware that they have given permission to being contacted by a company for marketing purposes.

The task force will tackle this issue head on looking at how consumers give and withdraw marketing consent and whether there should be expiry dates on consent. It will also investigate issues around lead generation including how personal data is used, shared and traded. The task force will aim to strike a balance between stopping unsolicited calls and supporting legitimate marketing companies that abide by the rules.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said:

“This Action Plan is a victory for the 110,000 people who backed our campaign to call time on the menace of nuisance calls and texts.

“Millions of consumers are bombarded by these calls, often because they weren’t aware that their personal information might be used in third party marketing, so I’m delighted to be chairing a task force of experts to review how consumers give and withdraw their consent to be contacted. 

“We now look forward to regulators using their new powers to help stop this growing problem. It’s also important that people continue to report complaints so regulators can crack down on companies who break the rules.”

The task force will report back to Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, with its recommendations later this year.

Notes to Editors

1.    Full membership of the task force will be announced in due course.

2.    The task force will look at the following issues:

Definition of consent – especially whether people are giving informed consent

Clarity of information provided by marketing companies

Methods of obtaining consent – whether consent is opt-in or opt-out or through pre-ticked boxes

Consistency across Channels  looking at requirements of different channels (email, text, phone)

Time-limits – how long consent should last once it has been given

Usage – how data can be used and shared once consent has been given

Record Keeping – how do firms demonstrate consent has been obtained legally

Responsibility – the relationship between lead generators and companies conducting marketing activities and who is responsible for obtaining consent.

3.   Which? launched its Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, after finding eight in 10 people had received a nuisance call on their land line in the previous month. Eight in 10 people found these calls an annoying interruption, while one third felt intimidated by them.

4.    Over 112,000 supporters have backed the Which? campaign and 32,657 complaints have been logged on the Which? Nuisance calls complaint tool with 17,652 going on to complain to a regulator.

5.    Most of the legislation relating to marketing consent is covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR), which also outlines the conditions under which unsolicited calls are permitted.

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