You've probably heard of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and may even have registered your phone number at home, along with almost 15m other UK households.
But you could be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about, and may definitely be wondering what the TPS has got to do with your business.
The truth is that the TPS isn't just more red tape to push to the back of the ever growing queue of things to do. It affects every UK business that uses the telephone for any form of marketing or selling, even if it's only very occasionally.
So let's unravel some of the myths surrounding the TPS, and see why you need to be aware of its implications.
The TPS is a central register of consumers who have chosen not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing phone calls, or cold calls as they're also called. It is operated and funded by the direct marketing industry, and regulation is overseen by the Information Commissioners Office.
Since its introduction in 1999, around 15m consumers have registered their phone number with the TPS, which represents almost 60% of UK households. Consumers can register both their home and mobile number with the TPS. Sole traders working from home can also register their telephone number at their residential address.
Businesses can also register not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing phone calls, on a special version of the register called the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS).
Research shows that about 10% of UK businesses have registered with the CTPS, including organisations like charities and public bodies. Also, businesses can register individual extension or department numbers within the same organisation, and many limited companies are registered with the residential TPS by mistake.
So how does TPS and CTPS legislation affect your business in practice?
- If you call a TPS or CTPS registered number on an unsolicited basis without permission, you'll be in breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. If reported and found to be in breach, your business could face legal action and even a £5,000 fine
- If you buy mailing lists for your marketing campaigns which include phone numbers, check that the list has been screened recently against the TPS register. Almost all reputable list companies will do this as a matter of course. If you're not going to use your list straight away, then you should check it against the TPS yourself at least every month
- If your sales staff research phone numbers of prospects from phone directories or websites, then they need to check each number before they phone
- If you have your own internal database of customers or contacts, it's recommended you screen it for TPS and CTPS registrations every month at the very least
Previously, access to the TPS register has only been limited to larger list providers, but fortunately it's now getting easier for small businesses to check numbers themselves.
Selectabase, for example, provides an online subscription service for checking individual numbers and free software which lets you screen your own lists from your PC against the TPS and other suppression files, using pay-as-you-go credits.
Steve Sellwood is managing director of direct marketing list and TPS checking provider Selectabase. For more information please visit www.selectabase.co.uk
Post Date: June 24th, 2008