When it comes to your telemarketing campaigns, TPS and CTPS are two terms that you need to be familiar with. The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) are opt-out registers for both consumers and businesses that do not want to be targeted over the phone by marketers. The TPS is a central register of individuals who have opted out of receiving live marketing calls.

The CTPS works in the same way as the TPS, but for companies and other corporate bodies (limited liability partnerships, Scottish partnerships and government bodies).

What are the rules on making live calls?

The rules on live marketing calls are in regulation 21. In short, you must not make unsolicited live calls to:

  • anyone who has told you they don’t want your calls; or
  • any number registered with the TPS or CTPS, unless the person has specifically consented to your calls – even if they are an existing customer.

You must always say who is calling, allow your number (or an alternative contact number) to be displayed to the person receiving the call, and provide a contact address or freephone number if asked.

What are the rules on automated calls?

The rules on automated calls are in regulation 19, and are stricter. You must not make an automated marketing call – that is, a call made by an automated dialling system that plays a recorded message – unless the person has specifically consented to receive this type of call from you. General consent for marketing, or even consent for live calls, is not enough – it must specifically cover automated calls.

All automated calls must include your name and a contact address or freephone number. You must also allow your number (or an alternative contact number) to be displayed to the person receiving the call.

When can we make marketing calls to individuals?

You can call any individual who has specifically consented to receive marketing calls from you – for example, by ticking an opt-in box.

You can also make live calls without consent to a number if it is not listed on the TPS – but only if that person hasn’t objected to your calls in the past.

In practice, this means you will need to screen most call lists against the TPS register. You will also need to keep your own ‘do not call’ list of people who object or opt out, and screen against that as well.

When can we make marketing calls to businesses?

The rules are the same as for calls to individuals. So, you can call any business that has specifically consented to your calls – for example, by ticking an opt-in box.

You can also make live calls to any business number that is not registered on the TPS or the CTPS, but only if they haven’t objected to your calls in the past.

You should remember that some businesses (sole traders and some partnerships) register with the TPS, and others (companies, some partnerships and government bodies) register with the CTPS. For business-to-business (B2B) calls, you will therefore need to screen against both the TPS and the CTPS registers, as well as your own ‘do not call’ list.

What counts as consent?

You will often need a person’s consent before you can send them a marketing message. If you do need consent, then – to be valid – consent must be knowingly and freely given, clear and specific. It must cover both your particular organisation and the type of communication you want to use (eg call, automated call, fax, email, text). It must involve some form of positive action – for example, ticking a box, clicking an icon, sending an email, or subscribing to a service – and the person must fully understand that they are giving you consent. You cannot show consent if you only provide information about marketing as part of a privacy policy that is hard to find, difficult to understand, or rarely read.

The clearest way to obtain consent is to ask the customer to tick an opt-in box confirming they are happy to receive your marketing calls, faxes, texts or emails.

You should keep clear records of what a person has consented to, and when and how you got this consent, so that you can demonstrate compliance in the event of a complaint.

You should be very careful when relying on indirect consent (consent originally given to a third party). You must make checks to ensure that the consent is valid and specifically covers your marketing. Generic consent covering any third party is unlikely to be enough.

Remember that the customer is entitled to withdraw their consent at any time.

What is the difference between ‘opt in’ and ‘opt out’?

‘Opt in’ means a person has to take a specific positive step (eg tick a box, send an email, or click a button) to say they want marketing. ‘Opt out’ means a person must take a positive step to refuse or unsubscribe from marketing.

Some organisations provide opt-in boxes that are automatically pre-ticked. In effect, this is closer to an opt-out, as the person must click the box (untick it) in order to refuse marketing.

We recommend you use unticked opt-in boxes wherever possible.

For further information, Information Commissioner’s Office guidance on direct marketing (PDF).

Remember: You should check the data you hold against these registers every 28 days. It is possible to purchase online “checkers” that will allow you to do this with ease, giving you peace of mind for the month ahead.

Also consider whether you might be able to connect with companies that would benefit from your product or service through other routes. For instance, a business owner may not want to receive an unsolicited call, but that doesn’t mean they are also adverse to a well-targeted email or piece of direct mail. And if you target the right people, in the right way, they may welcome a sales call further along their buyer’s journey.

There are strict rules to observe when it comes to your B2B telemarketing campaigns, but adhering to these needn’t be an arduous process. Ultimately, you want to target the right people through your marketing efforts – the people that want and need your product or service. But it’s just as important to target them through the right channel.

So you might consider the TPS and CTPS registers as another way of helping you to figure out how to do just that. Regularly checking your database against these lists will empower your marketing, helping you to reach your goals without encountering problems along the way.

For more information and details of how to subscribe to the TPS/CTPS, visit: www.tpsonline.org.uk.

If you are unsure how your activities fit within the rules, please take advantage of our Marketing Support service.

Contact us, and find out how we can help.

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Information Commissioner’s Office, Telephone marketing, licensed under the Open Government Licence