DMA UK Opposes BTB Opt-Out Proposal

The Direct Marketing Association (UK) Ltd. said yesterday that it strongly opposes a government proposal that would let businesses opt out of receiving telemarketing calls from other businesses.

The proposal, contained in Department of Trade and Industry draft regulations to implement the EU Privacy & Electronic Communications Directive, would let companies register with the Telephone Preference Service.

Under the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999, it is unlawful for a company to make a sales and marketing telephone call to an individual who indicated they do not want to receive such calls.

The United Kingdom's DMA said that if new draft regulations were implemented, they would have a devastating effect on business-to-business marketing and would particularly disadvantage small companies.

The association cited research showing that 44 percent of small businesses use telephone marketing to drive sales and grow their business. Companies also use telemarketing to verify the business data they hold, with the Data Protection Act 1998 stipulating that companies maintain accurate records.

The DMA made arguments to the Department of Trade and Industry against this proposal, stating that all companies expect to make and receive sales calls as part of normal business life and have devised their own mechanisms for dealing with unsolicited telemarketing calls.

BTB telemarketing aims to develop long-term partnerships and alliances with other companies, not one-off purchases, the DMA UK said, adding that it is vital for continued industry growth that business be allowed to develop such relationships unhindered.

The DMA said it also thinks that the department's proposal has many practical problems, such as clarifying which company numbers would be registered — such as the main switchboard, direct dial numbers or both — and whether registration would cover all company branches and sites. It also has questioned how the authority of the registrant would be determined.

Potential also exists in the proposal for sabotage and malicious registration by competitors or ex-employees.

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