Since May 1999 it has been illegal to send an individual a fax without their prior permission. If your business receives sales calls, junk faxes, unwanted mail or unsolicited emails you can register free and opt out. And if your business sends faxes or other electronic marketing it also has a legal responsibility to comply with the strict regulations – even if you wish to contact existing customers. This article outlines what small businesses need to know, how to make life simpler and how to comply with the law.
Your business can register fax numbers on which they do not wish to receive direct marketing faxes (individuals can also register). Contact the Fax Preference Service (FPS) www.fpsonline.org.uk but be aware that registration may cut off some worthwhile business opportunities. Registration is free. It takes a month to take effect, but if you are still receiving unsolicited sales and marketing faxes 28 days after registering FPS can take up the complaint on your behalf.
To make a complaint send a copy of the fax noting the fax number it was received on and your contact details. Be aware that the information you send to FPS will also go to the company you are complaining about. A report is sent to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Fax complaints older than 3 months cannot be dealt with.
If your company uses fax marketing you are legally obliged to ensure you do not fax any number which has registered either on the FPS and/or with you directly, not to receive direct marketing faxes. You must obtain the FPS file. By law, you need to comply with objections registered with the FPS no later than 28 days after the request was registered. This includes your own customers who have indicated to you directly that they do not wish you to fax and those registered with the central register. However, you can continue to fax to a corporate business if they have previously indicated that they do not object to you faxing.
To obtain data you will need to sign the FPS Data File Licence and pay before data can be released. There are three membership categories. The first is for companies that need unlimited access to the full data (this is sent via web download, bulletin board or a regular update every 28 days on any other media). There are various options, but a full licence can cost around £2,800.
Small businesses who are faxing small volumes a month may opt for one of the two other easy to use and cost effective services. If you rely on fax marketing but cannot justify the expense of database applications, these services allow you to maintain a competitive edge and keep within your legal requirements. Choose either:
Online Interrogation which allows you to check up to 500 numbers a month through the FPS website for a minimum charge of £50.00 a month, subsequent checks cost 10p each. You are only billed for the month(s) that you use the service.
Simply complete the online registration form on the Corporate TPS website. After you have given payment details you will be given a password and username (any number of designated people in your company can use it). You will be charged monthly based on the number of searches done in the month or for the minimum charge of £50. You will also be able to access a confidential report showing the numbers searched and who made each request.
This is a no contract, pay as you go service, which is available from any touchtone phone. You simply call 0906 686 6686 and key in the number you want to check. You will be informed whether the number is registered on FPS or not.
You are get reference number for auditing purposes which means you can have a report on the when the call was made to FPS Telepath and whether the number was registered or not. All calls are charged at 25p per minute.
Emails and text message
You must not contact individuals without their prior consent unless you have obtained their details in the course of a sale or negotiations of a sale, you only contact them about your own similar products or services and you give them the opportunity to opt out of receiving further marketing messages each time
However, there is an exception to this rule. Known as the ‘soft opt-in’ it applies if the following conditions are met;
- where you’ve obtained a person’s details in the course of a sale or negotiations for a sale of a product or service;
- where the messages are only marketing similar products or services; and
- where the person is given a simple opportunity to refuse marketing when their details are collected, and if they don’t opt out at this point, are given a simple way to do so in future messages
- when you send an electronic marketing message, you must tell the recipient who you are and provide a valid contact address.
The rules on emails don’t apply to emails sent to organisations, though you must still identify yourself and provide an address.
How do businesses opt out of unwanted telephone calls?
The Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS) is the central opt out register whereby corporate subscribers, including small businesses, limited companies, LLPs or partnerships in Scotland can register their wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls to either all their organisation’s telephone numbers, or to certain numbers. Schools, government departments, agencies and hospitals can also register. It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the CTPS. It takes 28 days for the registration to become fully effective.
Registering will stop nuisance sales calls but at the same time may stop you from hearing about relevant and worthwhile opportunities. You want to register certain parts of your organisation which does want to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls, but opt out for other areas. It is free and takes 28 days to become effective. Companies have to renew registration each year (unlike individuals and sole traders), and you will be reminded by email. You can also register your residential telephone number on the Telephone Preference Service to stop unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls at home.
If you don’t want junk mail contact the Mail Preference Service (MPS) and register.
Post comes under Data Protection. Likewise, as with electronic marketing, if the person or organisation you’re targeting asks to be taken off your mailing list, you must comply with their request. There are no exceptions to this rule, and if you fail to comply, they can apply to the courts for an order against you under section 11 of the Data Protection Act.
www.ico.gov.uk UK independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information by promoting good practice, ruling on eligible complaints, providing information to individuals and organisations, and taking appropriate action when the law is broken. The ICO has legal powers to ensure that organisations comply with the requirements of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
www.tpsonline.org.uk Opt out of receiving sales calls and unwanted marketing including faxes and mail. Individuals and sole traders can opt out of receiving unwanted sales and marketing calls. Businesses can opt out under the corporate section. Everyone can opt out of receiving junk mail. All free, but businesses to renew annually.