A Guide to the Telephone Preference Service

A Guide to the Telephone Preference Service

During my 15 years or more in this industry, I have come across quite a number of different practices where the Telephone Preference Service is concerned – some good, some bad and some downright ugly!

Unfortunately, whilst most of us within the industry strive to ensure all good practices are met, laws are adhered to and codes of conduct are followed, there are a few whose actions are questionable, shall we say. So, for the avoidance of doubt and hopefully to enlighten some, here are some guidelines regarding the Telephone Preference Service and our / your obligations surrounding their application within direct marketing.

The Law States That…

Telephone Preference Service logo

If you are making outbound sales and / or telemarketing calls, then you are required to check the telephone numbers against the Telephone Preference Service register (TPS / CTPS) prior to making your calls. Furthermore, under current legislation, which includes the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 (commonly referred to as PECR), UK companies, charities and individuals are required by law to check telephone numbers being used for sales and marketing calls every 28 days. You are required to remove any numbers that appear on the register and not to make any unsolicited calls to those numbers.

What if I Choose Not to Screen Against the Files?

Companies and individuals who appear on this register have chosen not to receive sales and marketing calls. As such, companies (including charities) who choose not to screen but subsequently call a number on the register can be fined up to £6,500 for each registered number they call. Further, higher fines can also be imposed if a breach is deemed severe enough to warrant it.

Picture of gavel and money - fines apply for breaching the Telephone Preference Service rules

What is the difference between TPS and CTPS?

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a register of individuals, sole traders and partnerships who have chosen not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls. The Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) is a register of corporate organisations (Limited Companies, PLCs, schools, hospitals, charities, Government Departments) who have chosen not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls.

Should I check against the TPS, CTPS or both?

If you are calling only domestic numbers, you need only check against the TPS register. If calling businesses, you must check against the CTPS and the TPS register.

Can I call my existing customers that are listed on the TPS / CTPS register?

The regulations state that you should not make any unsolicited direct marketing calls to any individual or organisation listed on the registers, unless they have told you directly that they do not object to you calling them, i.e. they have taken a positive action that invites or opts in to receiving sales and / or marketing telephone calls from you.

Advice written on a post-it note

Where a customer subsequently registers with the TPS / CTPS, you may still contact the customer. However, it is good practice to clarify at the time you become aware, that they do not object to your calls.

What If I’m Not Selling Anything?

I often get asked this by companies either conducting market research or looking to invite people to an event. In short, if you are genuinely not conducting the call with an end purpose of making a sale, i.e. for pure market research, then you do not need to screen against the registers. That said, if you make what starts out to be a research call to someone on the register, then during the call it becomes a sales call, or if you call with market research one day, then the following week call again to try and sell them something, this does require screening, so be certain of your end goal and don’t fall foul. This practice is commonly referred to as “Sugging” – Selling Under the Guise of Research – with a view to by-passing the TPS laws. It by-passes nothing and the practice carries the risk of severe fines.

If you call with the purpose of inviting someone to a seminar / conference / event, this is deemed a sales call and as such you must screen against the files so as not to be in breach of the law.

We always err on the side of caution when advising clients if they need to screen, since the ramifications of getting it wrong are significant. To this extent, unless you can satisfy us beyond doubt that you are conducting market research only (i.e. you are a member of the Market Research Society (MRS)), any telephone numbers we supply to you will be screened.

What About SMS Texting?

This could be a whole separate blog, though basically, TPS laws and opt-ins still apply. You must also give an opportunity to stop receiving future texts and, when receiving such a request, action it.

How do I screen my records?

Magnifying glass over dataWith only rare exception (i.e. market research), all data purchases made with Data Bubble that contain telephone numbers are screened against the TPS / CTPS prior to being output. However, this only lasts for 28 days. Further TPS / CTPS screening is therefore required if you continue to make sales and marketing calls beyond this time scale (Data Bubble offers this screening service – contact me for more information).

And Finally…DO NOT DO THIS!

I’ll finish on what I think is quite a popular activity – jotting down phone numbers from the side of vans, trucks etc and then texting / calling them. This is at best unethical (in my opinion) and at worst, potentially in breach of the laws. In short, no matter who says you should do it, DON’T DO IT. Remember, if you fall foul of the laws by undertaking such a practice, pleading that “someone you know said you could do it” will not make a suitable defence and you could find your pockets significantly lighter!

There is lots of information online about the laws and your obligations, though the one-stop-shop for such advice is www.tpsonline.org.uk Should you have any queries, you may always call me on 01274 965411 and I will be happy to advise you.

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TPS News – Does Your Company Telemarket?

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