The government has almost certainly passed on the opportunity to impose a blanket ban on cold-calling despite repeated calls for immediate action.
This week the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill cleared its third and final reading in the House of Commons, without amendments for a total ban included in the legislation. In the event the bill only includes provision for a ban on pensions cold-calling and further qualified restrictions.
The bill will now enter ping pong, with the House of Lords able to amend, reject or accept existing amendments but add no extras, meaning that effectively the opportunity to institute a total ban is likely to have passed.
As well as provisions on cold-calling, the bill also enables the transfer of claims management regulation from the Ministry of Justice to the Financial Conduct Authority.
Opposition MPs had campaigned for an outright ban on claims management companies being able to send unsolicited texts or cold-call, echoing legal campaigners who point out a ban already applies to solicitors.
Debating the bill in the Commons on Tuesday, Treasury minister John Glen said regulators will instead have the power to publish regular assessments of consumer detriment resulting from cold-calling, and to advise the government where further bans should be implemented.
The government also relies on a clause added at committee stage to prevent calls unless the person has given consent.
Glen said: ‘I acknowledge the widespread concern that exists in other areas, and I think that the action we are taking gets the balance right when it comes to getting the evidence together and moving as quickly as possible when the case has been made… We have made provision for additional bans to take place very quickly, and if my optimism is misplaced, I would expect the [Financial Conduct Authority] to act.’
The consent clause is unlikely to placate those wanting firmer action: concerns remain that people do not realise they have consented to their details being used, and there is no fixed time limit after which consent expires.
Esther McVey, secretary of state for work and pensions, said the bill not only changes the law but also sends a missive to the public that they will be protected.
She added: ‘While recognising that many claims management companies do good work to support people to claim compensation, we have sent a clear message that we will tackle malpractice where it exists, such as nuisance calls and the encouragement of fraudulent claims.’