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ACM: telemarketing rules are in place for a reason

16-11-2017

Telemarketing rules are in place for the protection of consumers against unsolicited phone calls and unwanted purchases. As Dutch consumer information portal ConsuWijzer has seen the number of indications about unsolicited phone calls rise again, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) wished to identify the problems associated with telemarketing. ACM subsequently took several measures aimed at improving compliance with the rules. For example, ACM pointed out the rules to businesses that generated complaints. And through ConsuWijzer, ACM reminded consumers of their rights, thus helping them counter unsolicited phone calls.

Bernadette van Buchem, Director of ACM’s Consumer Department, explains: “If businesses want consumers to continue to have confidence in telephony as a sales channel, it is crucial for them to stick to the rules. Consumers are extremely annoyed by unsolicited phone calls, and are genuinely harmed by unwanted purchases.”

Holding businesses to account

ACM has held 16 businesses that generated many complaints to account. More specifically, these are businesses that call consumers who have already indicated that they wish not to be called. ACM wants businesses to take a critical look at their methods in order to make sure they comply with the rules. If they fail to do so, or do so insufficiently, ACM has the option of imposing fines.

The most important telemarketing rules are:

  • Businesses are not allowed to call consumers who have registered their phone numbers in the Dutch Do-not-call-me Register. Businesses must consult this register before placing calls;
  • There is an exception to this rule: businesses are allowed to call their own customers, including former customers, even if they have registered their phone numbers in the Do-not-call-me Register;
  • Businesses are not allowed to call consumers who have indicated they do not (or no longer) wish to be called by that particular business. This is called the ‘right to object’. Consumers can exercise this right at any time during the conversation.

These rules apply to telemarketing calls to both consumers and small businesses. In addition, the actual contents of each phone conversation are subject to various statutory rules, as well. For example, callers must be clear about their identities, the purpose of the call, the conditions of the offer, and the cooling-off period. With regard to telemarketing calls involving the sale of subscriptions, all agreements must be in writing. This means that any agreement is only valid if the consumer in question has agreed to it in writing.

ACM has asked DDMA, the trade association for data-driven marketing, to remind its members of these rules. DDMA recognizes the importance of proper compliance with telemarketing rules. It has reminded its members of these rules, and has taken stock of the options for a collective approach.

ACM will continue to monitor the indications involving telemarketing.

Consumer education

ACM offers a lot of practical information in order to educate consumers about their rights when it comes to telemarketing calls.

For example, ACM warns consumers against filling out online surveys or participating in online competitions. Even though filling out online surveys in itself does not automatically give businesses permission to call these consumers, they do so anyway, and quite often. ACM is actively bringing this information to the attention of consumers. Consumers continue to have the opportunity to submit their indications to ConsuWijzer.