/ Technology

A call for evidence: how do you consent to marketing?

A phone bursting through the background

Our Calling Time campaign really touched a nerve, with well over 100,000 people signing in support. But now we’ve got the Government’s ear, we need your views on how people consent to be contacted by companies.

Despite the big focus by regulators to tackle nuisance calls, recent research from Ofcom has revealed that the problem is still a very large one, even if the calls have shifted from reclaiming PPI to ‘green’ things, like solar panels.

So it’s good news that we’re moving forward with how to tackle the problem. The Which? task force on consent, which was set up as part of the Government’s Action Plan on nuisance calls, held its first meeting last week.

The task force will look at how you give and withdraw your consent to marketing and how your personal data is traded by lead generation firms. This matters as it often lies at the root of why we receive unwanted marketing. Your personal data is traded on and on, and it’s hard to stop the marketing flow.

Help the task force in its inquiry

We’re now looking for additional evidence on what makes you less or more likely to share your personal information with an organisation. For instance, do you tick or untick ‘consent’ boxes without realising what you’re opting into, and do you understand what happens if you consent to hear from ‘specially selected third parties’? Your answers to these three questions will help our task force with its inquiry:

1. What makes you more or less likely to share your information with an organisation, or to agree to receiving marketing?
2. Do you have a preference for how organisations should ask you for consent to marketing activity?
3. Have you asked companies for more information about how they have bought and sold your personal information, and what was the result?

Feel free to either comment here on Which? Conversation or, if you prefer, you can submit a formal written response by email.

Businesses also called on for evidence

The call for evidence also includes a long list of questions for those who work in the marketing and lead generation sectors. This is because the task force is made up of representatives from all the relevant worlds – the regulators, the marketing sector, call centres and consumer bodies. Businesses can read a full list of questions relevant to them here, and are encouraged to respond with a formal written response.

The aim of the task force is to come up with sensible solutions to help you stop unwanted marketing. Solutions that businesses can adopt, regulators can enforce and, where necessary, the Government can legislate for.

Surely this would be a ‘win-win’ for consumers and marketeers alike – after all the most effective marketing is directed at someone who actually wants to see it. And the most ineffective is directed at someone who doesn’t, such as ‘I don’t want solar panels… because my flat is on the ground floor and I don’t own the roof.’

So, let’s hear your views so that we can tackle the root cause of nuisance calls head on.

Comments
Guest
Emma Frost says:
9 August 2014

Maybe our time is wasted, but maybe the more we challenge things, something will eventually be done. It is great to see other people also talking about this issue, and the more we alert people to the issue the better. Still optimistic that change may happen!

I think that it is the professionals involved in working with vulnerable adults who need to alert their children / carers to look out for this kind of problem. The psychiatrist who diagnosed my Dad with Alzheimer’s asked if he had suffered financial scams in his first assessment so this must be a huge problem! GPs, Social Workers etc. also need to be trained to raise awareness of these issues in my view, at least until the law is changed.

Guest

Emma, could you list the organisations that gave your father so much trouble? Perhaps then we could contact them to say how much we deplore their attitude. If enough people do so then maybe they will get the message.

Guest

tonyp, I really don’t think that will make them change. I think they whole way charities taut for business needs to change. They shouldn’t pro actively go after donations targeting individuals

Guest
Emma Frost says:
10 August 2014

Thank you for such a kind offer. So far I have spoken out against one charity and didn’t expect to have to do this as I naively thought that when I pointed out what was happening they would immediately stop this kind of fundraising. To my utter shock they defended the use of call centres instead so I was promoted to act and was interviewed by Dispatches for the programme being screened tomorrow. I have no wish to harm any charity but can’t sit by and watch them harm vulnerable people either.

Guest

Emma, I hope your interview for Dispatches has some effect. The more publicity for a charity’s aggressive approaches to vulnerable people the better. It is not just a matter of embarrassment but that many people who normally contribute to them will cancel their payments when they hear of the problem. I certainly got rid of one particular charity in this way after an over-persistent session with someone from a call centre who was trying to get me to increase my annual payment. After several attempts to get him to accept that I had no intention whatsoever of making an increase, I just said that instead of increasing my payment I was cancelling it because I disagreed with the aggressive approach being made – and did so. It worked, I haven’t heard from them since.

Guest

Thank you for sharing your story with us Emma. Appreciate you taking the courage to talk to the community about it here. I’ll let others know at Which? that you’re going to be on Dispatches tomorrow.

As you know form this post, we’re running a task force on behalf of the Government to tackle how you give consent to these types of calls. The comments shared here will be used as evidence, and some individuals will be interviewed as part of the task force. I think you and your father’s story needs to be heard – I’ll talk to others tomorrow, but thanks again for sharing it with us here.

Guest
Emma Frost says:
10 August 2014

I suspect an awful lot of charities work in this way and I have others who rang my Dad in the same way still to tackle. His data seemed to go elsewhere too so I have a lot more digging to do in the interest of protecting other vulnerable adults

Guest
Emma Frost says:
10 August 2014

Hi Patrick,

Have more information to share and am still asking probing questions of one charity and call centre and will be asking more questions of the other charities and companies selling insurance whom I also believed exploited my Dad