Telephone lead generation, outbound telemarketing and fundraising have come in for a great deal of recent criticism from regulators and consumers. The very power of the channel means that it will always gain a reaction – good or bad. Add the fact that there has been some blatant bad practice and you have a recipe for consumer dissatisfaction and regulatory clampdown.
So what steps can be taken to ensure that your telemarketing campaigns are compliant and cause only minimal complaint?
1. Data Provenance and Consent
It (should) go without saying that data should only be used for telemarketing campaigns with the consent of the individual. The law on this (PECR) is complex as there are different levels of consent required depending on whether the consent is being given to/for the brand itself or for third party use.
For brand only consent to be valid – and especially to be able to override a Telephone Preference Service (TPS) listing – the individual must give their number and consent knowing that calls may follow. This can, however, be obtained by using an opt-out mechanism i.e. “we’d like to call you with our special offers, tick here [ ] if you prefer we didn’t”.
This “customer dispensation” from the TPS in PECR can be applied whether the data is collected in-house or through external lead generation but the brand must be named and it must be clear that calls will follow.
Third party consent for live calls can also be by opt-out but to be valid, it needs to be made very clear that the telephone number will be passed on for telephone use by other companies. Generic third party consent does not override a TPS listing.
2. Age of consent
There has been a lot of debate about how long consent for marketing communications can be regarded as valid. The ICO has been pushing for a 6 month limit for third party consent which has been endorsed by the Optical Express case at the Information Tribunal.
When sourcing external data for telemarketing campaigns you should always ask for proof that consent has been recently obtained and the actual wording used to obtain it.
When using in-house data you should consider when the consent to call was given and whether it was clear enough to allow you to bypass a TPS registration. As a rule of thumb, it may not be advisable to use data where the last interaction from the individual was over two years ago.
3. Choosing a supplier
If you are intending to outsource telemarketing campaigns it is essential that the call centre can assist you in managing personal data fairly. Ensuring the call centre is part of the TPS Assured scheme is a good measure of competence (For charities the Institute of Fundraising Code says that Telephone fundraising agencies carrying out fundraising calls on behalf of a charity MUST have an up to date TPS Assured certification or be in the process of applying.)
Operator training and quality control procedures are an essential part of evaluating a call centre which should be part of the procurement checklist. As a processor of personal data on your behalf, the call centre will need to sign a written contract which binds them to protect the data you provide. The contract should also require them to assist with any Subject Access Requests or complaints from individuals. Scripting calls carefully and providing operators with wording for permission statements and fair answers to common queries (e.g. “Why are you calling when I’m on the TPS?”) are also vital.
4. Ongoing monitoring
As telemarketing campaigns roll out, regular and random monitoring of call recordings should be instigated. This helps to identify any scripting issues or rogue operators. The stats can also tell their own story. If new prospects are being delivered with suspiciously high consent level, it is likely that the permission statements are not being used or consents recorded properly.
5. Complaint handling procedures
Monitoring metrics should include the number of complaints raised by individuals and the nature of those complaints. Rapid and sensitive responses to complaints can often mean the difference between a continuing relationship and a complaint to the ICO. It goes without saying that requests to withdraw consent MUST be acted upon without delay.
The telephone is a major channel for many brands and fundraisers but calls lead to an average 10,000 complaints a month to TPS and the ICO. By following these 5 steps you should be able to ensure that your organisation steers clear of any consumer backlash.
A Guide to Sourcing Data from Third Parties
Advice from the ICO on Third Party Data Sourcing
The information provided and the opinions expressed in this document represent the views of the Data Protection Network. They do not constitute legal advice and cannot be construed as offering comprehensive guidance to the Data Protection Act 1998 or other statutory measures referred to in the document.
The information provided and the opinions expressed in this document represent the views of the Data Protection Network. They do not constitute legal advice and cannot be construed as offering comprehensive guidance on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or other statutory measures referred to.