We are watching closely some proposed new UK laws. If approved, they would radically change the way in which businesses could market their goods or services by telephone in the UK.

The proposed changes are in the Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill 2013/14, which amends the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Currently, the Regulations require Ofcom (the UK’s telecommunications regulator) to maintain the Telephone Preference Register. This is a register of people who have opted out of receiving marketing telephone calls. Marketing calls can be made to everyone other than those people on the register. The Bill reverses that position. The register would become a list of people who have opted in to receive marketing calls. Businesses could only call those people who had chosen to be included on the register, and no-one else. This could severely restrict the number of potential recipients of direct marketing calls. Businesses that rely on marketing by telephone may have to rethink their advertising model. Many companies outsource the provision of such advertising services to call centres in India and the Far East. If these proposed changes come in, the rules could severely affect the revenue that such operations have traditionally generated. Similarly, businesses based outside the UK marketing to consumers in the UK would likely be required to comply with the revised regulatory regime. It is important that companies engaged in international marketing campaigns keep up-to-date with the changing legal landscape in each territory.

We should stress that the Bill is not yet law. It has yet to be approved by the UK legislature. The Bill is a bit unusual in that most Bills are backed by the UK government but this was introduced by an individual Member of Parliament. Often these ‘Private Members’ Bills’ are not allocated the time to be properly considered amongst all of the other legislation also being looked at, and so do not become law. The Unsolicited Telephone Communications Bill may suffer a similar fate.

More updates to follow. Further information is available on the UK Parliament website.