Cold calling may be the bete noire of politicians and solicitors, but figures appear to show that public disquiet over the issue is on the wane. The latest snapshot of complaints data from the Information Commissioner’s Office shows concerns reported to the organisation about unwanted contact from claims management companies is decreasing.
The number of concerns in January 2018 fell by 55% compared to the same period in 2017, and fell by 20% compared to January 2016.
Breaking the statistics down further, complaints about text messages remained at about 1,000 for each month of 2017, but concerns about automated calls came down from a peak of 8,500 in February last year to around 2,500 in the first month of 2018.
The figures come at a time when debate ensues around further regulation of cold calling: the government is legislating to restrict marketing calls where permission has not been given, but campaigners say this is not tough enough.
The ICO says that enforcement action prevents rule breaches and call blocking technology stops the contact in the first place. In January alone, six firms were issued with fines coming to £1.25m in relation to unsolicited calls and messages.
Paul Bennett, a partner at Chester firm Aaron & Partners, who advises law firms on how to stay compliant with rules around marketing, said the downward trend in complaints may appear surprising but can be easily explained.
The ICO have been working closely with the Claims Management Regulator for a number of years to disrupt the less reputable CMCs and the regulatory action in their published update is significant,’ he said. ’The CMR is quite blunt in its approach and good CMCs have been challenged as well.’
Meanwhile, Bennett says solicitors using claims management companies need to be extra cautious about how claims are farmed once regulation of CMCs transfers to the Financial Conduct Authority. This is included in the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill currently going through parliament.
Bennet explained the FCA taking over conduct of CMC regulation will be a ‘seismic shift’ as companies face an organisation used to investigating conduct across different work types.
He added: ‘When the CMCs seek authorisation from the FCA in due course they will be expected to show existing rule compliance.’