The government’s insistence on pressing ahead with a ban on cold-calling by claims management companies (CMCs) that many argue does not go far enough will be put to the test today.
MPs will consider the changes made during the committee stage of the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill and various further amendments put forward by the Labour opposition.
The government’s clause prohibits live unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls in relation to claims management activities, except where the recipient has given explicit consent to receiving such calls.
Treasury minister John Glen told the committee that this took the onus away from the individual to opt out of such calls being made to them—by signing up to the telephone preference service (TPS), for example—and “puts the responsibility back on the organisation and its due diligence before making such calls”.
The likes of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and Association of British Travel Agents said this would have little effect and instead supported an alternative, seemingly more extensive, ban put forward by Labour.
This included other means of communication, such as texts, and would ban the use of any data obtained by cold calling.
Speaking ahead of today’s debate, APIL president Brett Dixon said: “There is a clear public demand for a ban on cold calling, yet the government has rowed back on its commitment to stop this epidemic which bedevils people across this country.
“Its proposal to control cold calling by changing the rules on consent will do nothing to stop unscrupulous marketing organisations from taking advantage of vulnerable people…
“No-one would knowingly consent to being cold-called about a personal injury claim. The idea is unthinkable. Consent may be appropriate for other types of marketing but it has no place in the field of personal injury.”
Mr Dixon said the government’s reluctance was “incomprehensible” given that the bill provided for a cold-calling ban in relation to pensions.
An amendment put forward by Labour MP Steve McCabe would require the Financial Conduct Authority – as soon as it takes responsibility for claim management companies – ban “unsolicited real-time direct approaches to members of the public carried out by whatever means, digital or otherwise” by CMCs.
It would also ban the use of data obtained by cold-calling.
Meanwhile, research by marketing business National Accident Helpline found as many as one in every five people receive a cold call at least once a day.
It urged the government to go further requiring the Solicitors Regulation Authority to “name and shame” rogue law firms and take strong enforcement action against firms that accept leads generated through nuisance calls;
It also said ministers should put an immediate stop to ‘phoenixing’ – where CMCs that have been forced to cease trading relaunch under a different name – and should placing the Information Commissioner’s Office’s direct marketing guidance on a statutory footing.
Another amendment, put forward by Labour’s front bench, would allow the FCA to recommend introducing a duty of care which would require CMCs to act with the best interests of the customers in mind.