As you may have seen in the news, the law regarding outbound direct marketing calls has changed. Currently one in five outbound direct marketing calls is from an anonymous or withheld number, something that became illegal from 16 May 2016. UK registered companies that flout the revised regulations could be subject to penalties of up to £2.5 million per campaign – £2m to Ofcom, and £0.5m to the ICO (Information Commissioners Office).
The regulations are bad news for business and consumers alike, for two main reasons:
- They don’t affect overseas-registered businesses so compliance costs only affect UK businesses selling to UK consumers.
- Most nuisance is generated by overseas-based calling so consumers may not see much improvement – most UK businesses are already compliant.
What’s really needed is some proper legislation governing the wholesale termination of calls. Here, pushed by the EU, Ofcom has pushed the costs of termination so low that the charges for line rental and call origination have had to increase to compensate. But more tellingly, there is no measurable margin left in call termination, and so innovation in termination-based services has stalled.
A toothsome approach would be to require all UK terminating operators to obtain a valid CLI (calling line identification) for all calls. Service could be offered at price-point a) for calls containing a valid CLI in the DTMF or SIP signalling, and at price point b) for calls which had to pass through IVR which would interrogate the caller to obtain the CLI (in DTMF) before terminating the call. Any CLI used for more than n calls per hour could require to be verified. If the UK was first with such legislation (with plenty of consultation and warning), it would stimulate service development and provide substantial export opportunities for the know-how.
I suspect it won’t happen because certain dominant terminating operators in the UK might find it onerous to implement, and might persuade Ofcom that it isn’t necessary.
But if we really want to get rid of nuisance calling, the only point where it can be effectively controlled is at the terminating operator, as that is the only point in the call that UK regulation is universally enforceable.