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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
UK firms hang up on cold callers
Woman using telephone
Companies complain they can't cope with cold calls
A new service allowing British businesses to block cold calls from direct marketing firms gets under way on Thursday.

Under the scheme, companies wishing to avoid cold calls can register their phone numbers on a blacklist compiled by the Telephone Preference Service.

Marketing firms are legally obliged to check the list, and make sure they do not call any numbers on it.

Offenders can be fined up to £5,000 for each blacklisted number they call.

The Telephone Preference Service opt-out register, backed by the government, has been available to private subscribers since 1999.

Small firms swamped

The system has been extended to businesses in response to complaints from some companies that they were unable to cope with a deluge of unsolicited phone calls.

Small businesses were among the most seriously affected.

"Although direct marketing is a useful business tool, many firms just don't have the resources to cope," said communications minister Stephen Timms.

"This measure gives those firms the option to say no to cold calls."

Registration on the opt-out list is free to corporate subscribers.

Your comments:

I set up a small company last year. In the first month I must have had 50 calls 'on behalf of' the police (unspecified force), the fire brigade (ditto), the army, the 'electric' company and a host of others. Caller display indicated the numbers came from Liverpool or were withheld. Eventually I stopped answering withheld calls and didn't get any for ages. This year's round seems to have started again this week.
Richard, Ipswich, UK

Yes!! Cold calling can be a nightmare. It gets to the stage where even advertising our services has to be carefully considered due to the amount of subsequent cold calls we receive as a result of our company details being shown. It's the usual calls too, insurance, medical, advertising, all of which any self respecting business will organise through a single financial advisor. I shall be looking to put my company details on this list!!
Steve Turner, Portsmouth, Hampshire

Our small business is plagued by these calls. Unfortunately I don't think the Telephone Preference Service will make any difference at all.
Businesses have been able to register with the Fax Preference Service for several years now - we did so but we still get faxes from companies who ignore the law. We forward them to the FPS, but no action is ever taken and the faxes continue. The FPS is run by the direct marketing industry - unsurprisingly they have never taken any legal action to enforce the law.
You won't be able to find out who is calling you anyway, as all sales callers withhold their number. Its a good idea, but without the teeth to enforce the law, its a waste of time.
Mart, London, UK

I've been faced with cold callers before and these days what I often do is give false information, e.g. how many in the family - 50 average salary - £2 etc etc at which point they normally hang up. I can waste their time just as much as them. But I welcome this new TPS service.
Mike Scott, Southampton, UK

What an excellent scheme. I work in marketing and the number of agencies ringing up with 'the best thing you have ever had' is ludicrous.
Steve Warner, UK

I work in a big NHS I.T. department and we are snowed under by speculative sales calls - personally I get about a dozen a day. Job agencies are the biggest offenders, but other firms who cold call and ask 'what projects have you got on?' are just as annoying, expecting me to spend half an hour explaining the complexities of our business so that they can try and cash in on it. I feel sorry for the callers - they're clearly under-trained in a thankless job - so will always be polite and listen to their script. One piece of advice for such companies - get yourself a decent web site and make it easily findable: that's how I.T. outfits find products, not by waiting for our phones to ring.
Bill Douglas, Liverpool, UK

I work for a large financial organisation that uses cold-calling to generate new business. I feel our customers are generally very happy with what we offer. I suggest that businesses use TPS at their peril. We have lost business through businesses registering halfway through a deal process. When we have explained this to the companies they say "Oh, we did not realise TPS would apply to you" as we are such a large household name. What appears to be the issue is not that companies receive cold-calls, but that the calls they receive may be inappropriate to their needs at that time. It is difficult when an SME is overwhelmed by cold-calls, and my organisation would not want this. As for advice from the sales side of the fence, I would get SME directors and managers to brief the receptionists to what they are in the market for so they can make screening decisions themselves, use customer service indexes to identify companies and invite them to a tendering process. This will scare! off the "quick-buck" operators as the deal will be too complicated, while still allowing new business an opening to bring new prices and products to the marketplace.
Dan Johnson, Edinburgh

This is a double edged sword. As a small probably niche business you are unlikely to get too much response from (expensive and untargeted) advertising because you lack credibility. What is your next course of action other than to cold call your client base yourself? Businesses in the UK are too quick to be dismissive of the potential for outside help. By removing the opportunity to cold call you are both removing a valid route to market for many small businesses and encouraging the kind of blinkered 'not invented here' attitude that has gotten firms like M&S into trouble.
Greg Turner, UK Widnes

We receive many "speculative" calls. There is a solution though that we could all adopt which is to feign interest in whatever they are calling about, take their numbers then call them back 20 times a day! Touché
Jan Lewis, Whitchurch, Hampshire, UK

I read your article and have to say... Are you Brits trying to STOP business in its tracks. Nothing happens till something is sold and nothing can be sold till a salesperson makes the first call. If you allow this to happen only Big Business will have the funds to make sales and the small businessman will be out of business. Thank god I'm in Australia... we invent and sell!
Peter Morrison-Dowd,

I am English and live in Florida so have experienced cold calling on both sides of the Atlantic and they all seem to call either late or night or as you sit down to eat a meal. This year, the same scheme was launched and has personally been a big success. We used to get so many sales calls on our home number, we changed our telephone number but it again the sales calls began to rise. I registered our number on the Do Not Call register and we have had only 5 or 6 calls in the last 4 months.
Russell Scoates, Florida, USA

I have recently started up my own telemarketing company, we specifically provide telemarketing on behalf of the IT Industry, CRM, ERP, And Business Intelligence tools. I do understand peoples frustration with Telcoms ( LCR ), and utilities firms calling every 5 minute, but we provide a useful service, my only issue is that will we be tarred with the same brush, we are not a CALL CENTRE, we are a small company of 5, and don't want to talk to anyone that does not want to talk to us.
Mike Jackson, Aldershot

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