This Thursday, the Government voted a ban on cold calling into the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, at the committee stage, by 9 votes to 8. We last discussed the progress of the Bill through the House of Commons in edition 216 (here), when we reported on the events of the second reading of the Bill. Over the course of the week, criticism has been placed on the Government’s attitude towards banning cold-calling.
The Government have included a clause, known as NC6, ‘which prohibits live unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls in relation to claims management activities, except where the recipient has given explicit consent to receiving such calls’.[i]
Labour had been pushing for an alternative, more extensive measure, known as NC9, which would have seen a ban applied to other means of communication, such as texts and data capture, too. This had been supported by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which, this week, described the Government’s stance on cold-calling as a ‘broken promise’.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) preferred clause NC6, but argued that ‘the most effective way to stop nuisance calling is by removing the financial incentives that encourage firms to harass the public in this way’. They suggest a provision inserted within the Civil Liability Bill.[ii]
John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, is:
‘... convinced that the new clause will have the effect of making unwanted calls from claims management services unlawful’.
Further, Mr Glen told the committee that that by signing up to the telephone preference service (TPS), for example, responsibility would be taken away from individuals and put ‘back on the organisation and its due diligence before making such calls’.
However, Jack Dromey MP, of Labour, directed the committee to facts which show that ‘In 2017, the ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office] received 11,805 reports of unsolicited direct marketing calls about claims management from people already on the TPS register, in addition to reports of 17,112 calls and texts for which absence from the register was not deemed to represent consent’.
As such, the Labour Minister forecasted that ‘The government amendment will simply add more cases to the yearly total—28,917 in 2017—and will do little to stop the scourge of cold calling’, and is of the opinion that only ‘a ban on cold calling, full stop’, will bring an end to the problem.
In addition, Labour MP, Ellie Reeves, has identified that confusion may be created if an ‘outright ban on cold calling in personal injury claims by claims management companies’ is not enacted, as:
‘It would ban cold calling unless someone has given consent. What amounts to consent in this context may not always be clear and people, especially the most vulnerable, may struggle to understand that they have consented to being cold called or may not appreciate what they have consented to’.
APIL consider that the present rules on consent are ‘incredibly opaque and almost impossible to navigate’, especially for vulnerable claimants.
[i] Neil Rose, ‘Government presses ahead with cold-calling ban despite criticism of approach’ (7 February 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-presses-ahead-cold-calling-ban-despite-criticism-approach> accessed 8 February 2018.
[ii] Neil Rose, ‘Government accused of “breaking promise” on cold-calling ban as it targets April for holiday sickness fixed fees’ (6 February 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-accused-breaking-promise-cold-calling-ban-targets-april-holiday-sickness-fixed-fees> accessed 8 February 2018.