Government Defends ‘Confusing’ Cold-Calling Ban

This week, a member of the Treasury has provided an update in defence of the Government’s strategy on implementing a ban on cold-calling within the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill. In its present form, the Bill 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’.

The Labour Party has previously argued that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) should not just take over regulation of claims management companies, but also have the power to enforce bans. Under current plans, the power would be vested in the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

However, the Mr John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, has voiced his ‘confidence’ in the Government’s approach, arguing that giving the FCA this responsibility would ‘risk confusing consumers and industry … [to have] … different cold-calling regimes for different sectors’.[i]

By contrast, Mr Glen proposes that the ICO ‘would ensure that the ban was “plugged into the existing framework”’.

The Economic Secretary, later in his defence, went on to provide evidence to assure readers of the strength that the ICO would use against rogue cold-calling companies:

‘… under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), the ICO had “tough enforcement powers”, including the ability to fine firms based in the UK up to £500,000,’ and issued ‘fines totalling £2.83m in 2017’.

However, Mr Glen attempted to appease disappointed parties, who contend that the Bill does not go far enough to eradicate the problems caused by cold-calling. He discussed the fact that the FCA ‘have a role to play’ and will ‘be consulting on new rules for CMCs’. In doing so, Mr Glen considered that ‘the FCA could take breaches of PECR into account as part of a CMC’s suitability to carry on a regulated activity’.

On the definition of ‘consent’, which, according to the Bill, would render unsolicited calls solicited, Mr Glen stated that consent must be ‘knowingly and freely given, clear and specific’. In addition, if consent is given, the extent of it must be recorded by companies.

Further, on the issue of when consent elapses, Mr Glen stated:

There is no fixed time limit after which consent automatically expires but consent does not remain valid forever’.

 

[i] Nick Hilborne, ‘Government issues defence of plan to ban cold-calling’ (28 February 2018 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/government-issues-defence-plan-ban-cold-calling> accessed 1 March 2018.