Cold Call Cowboys

Recently I have been telemarketing for some of my clients and although I have only been making B2B calls, after a neighbour’s comment and watching a Panorama programme, I started to write this blog about consumer cold calls.

Cold Calls are now accepted as an irritating fact of modern life.  However, most of us know that organisations are legally required to not make calls to numbers registered on the TPS … unless they have consent to do so.

What is the TPS?

The Telephone Preference Service has been around for over 17 years.  It is well known and respected by the general marketing industry.  It is regulated by Ofcom (, enforced by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) ( and it is the only official opt-out register.   (If a company ever asks you to pay for this service, refuse and inform the TPS.)

“Which? research has found that signing up for free to the TPS cuts the cold calls people receive on average by one third”.

How does it work?

Companies are asked to cross check their databases with TPS to ensure that those who have registered are left in peace.  The TPS advise that “Any company that values its reputation, its customers and its brand that uses telemarketing as a way of promoting their services takes TPS very seriously”

So what’s the problem?

There are several unscrupulous companies who ignore the regulations.  Many do not even use databases but instead use the phone book to gain contact details.

The TPS, run by the Direct Marketing Association, have no power to enforce the regulations.  When complaints are made to the TPS they contact the company, warning of regulation breach and ask for the number to be added to the companies Do Not Call list.  The information is then passed to the ICO for further investigation and enforcement.

In the Panorama programme (July 2012) the Direct Marketing Association said they send up to 2000 complaints per month to the ICO but there have been no prosecutions in the last 18 months.  The programme also advised that until this year there were no suitable legal powers available to enable prosecution.  However, even though there are now tougher powers and fines of up to £½ Million in place it is still not easy to prosecute those who break the laws and regulations.

Some companies break the law further by withholding their telephone number and not making it clear who they are, sometimes providing false company names, in order to avoid receiving complaints.  TPS advise that the ICO still want information on these for future action.

More importantly

The TPS does not apply to scams, market research calls, calls from companies based abroad or calls from companies where you have ‘opted in’.

The significant loophole here is when you have given your permission by opting in.  Many companies collect consent during the early stages of your relationship.  On the forms that collect your personal details (for instance when you enter competitions, sign up to new services, buy products online etc), there is usually a consent area at the bottom of the form (sometimes in small type).  It used to be the case that you would tick to opt out but regulations now state you must opt in – meaning that they can only use your details if you tick the box.

If you have given consent at some point in the past it won’t make any difference to those companies buying and selling this information if you are registered on TPS or not, as you have already given your consent.   If you have already given your phone number to companies you can request that it is not used for marketing purposes or be passed on to third parties.

When you receive a cold call you should be able to ask where the company obtained consent to contact.  However, referring back to those unscrupulous companies, many use fictional resources and make up the information.

So …

Until the system that regulates this industry is improved and while there is a lot of money to be made by using these methods it will continue to be worthwhile to unscrupulous companies to ignore the laws and continue to make the calls.

Which means the “Cold Call Cowboys” will get away with it and the reputable ethical marketer will be tarred with their bad name.

If you don’t want to receive cold calls, make sure you don’t give out your permission to be contacted.  For more advice on this subject Which? provides their ten tips to stop cold calls.

References used

Panorama – Call Centres Undercover –

Telephone Preference Service –

Which? – Ten tips to stop cold calls –

ICO – Marketing Calls –

Ofcom – How can I stop getting sales calls? –

6 Comments on “Cold Call Cowboys

  1. Hi Merewyn,
    This is really helpful, thanks for all the links to visit.
    Receiving cold calls is such an invasion of privacy, and I dislike it very much. It has created an additional problem for me, and find that I am reluctant to make B2B calls as I don’t wish to create that irritation!
    How do we get round that one? What is your experience of making B2B calls?

    • Sorry Jenny for my delay in replying. This has been difficult for me to respond as I have not reached a resolution for myself yet and why I kept the blog about consumer cold calls.

      Before researching this blog, I did not know that there was a CTPS (Corporate Telephone Preference Service). I don’t think I’d thought about it and must have just thought businesses were fair game. However I have found that it is illegal to make unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls to organisations that are registered on CTPS. This morning I found that ‘Electric Marketing’ offers to check for free whether a telephone number is registered with CTPS and charges 1p per contact when you want to screen a database.

      The more I think about it the more questions and topics are raised. For me the bigger issue is the effectiveness of the efforts and whether there are better ways of finding new business.

      I will need to research more about the topic and promise to write a further blog about my findings. In the meantime if you would like to discuss this on a one-2-one basis please do not hesitate in contacting me.

      Links to see

  2. Hi

    This is a growing problem. I’ve been registered with TPS for many years yet recently I’ve been receiving a growing number of calls both about pensions and ms-selling of PPI. What I hadn’t appreciated until now was that the TPS doesn’t cover overseas companies, which might explain all the Indian sub-continent calls.

    I suspect that at some point in the past I’ve given permission to be contacted to a consumer research body and my details are being passed round. This is a good reminder to challenge every call, it just takes extra time!

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