TPS – Telephone Preference Service

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) was introduced in 1999 as a way of preventing or reducing the number of unsolicited – or nuisance – calls to households. It subsequently expanded to include postal, fax numbers, business numbers and mobile phones. Presently, enforcement is via the  ICO and those in breach can expect the usual prosecution of fines and threats of court and even prison for repeat offenders.

Firms whose business is to call households – whether that’s telemarketing, market research or anything else – have a vested interest in keeping the public onside. Best practice surely dictates that it makes no sense to try and speak to people who don’t want to be spoken to. If the person at the other end gets annoyed, we end up in a negative vortex where complaints rise, agencies’ “hit rates” decline and costs increase. Amongst all of this, market research has to conduct its surveys.

With regards to TPS screening there are a few scenarios to consider as a market researcher.  Firstly client-supplied sample.  Is it GDPR compliant and is there a need for it to be screened?  If it is a customer database then there is “legitimate interest” in the call and we can assume no conflicts at all.  Next there are commercially available samples, such as those provided by Sample Answers.  As lifestyle samples involve personal data and thus need to ensure GDPR compliance, any reputable supplier will have screened against the TPS, as indeed we do here.  Lastly, there is the case of using RDD (random digit dial) samples to establish as pure a representation of a given population as possible. Present estimates put the number of households on the TPS at 25% so this is an astonishing amount of people to not be speaking to and TPS screening will not be desirable or optimal to ensure a representative sample. Also, since there is NO personal data associated with an RDD sample it cannot be in breach of GDPR.

One could therefore expect that any CATI projects involving consumers would be wise to screen against the TPS as a matter of routine. However, the market research industry is one of only a handful of exceptions within the law and there is no punishment for not doing so. But what about best practice? Understandably the “offer” from market research is different in that there is no selling proposed, simply the request for a bit of one’s time and if lucky, the survey will be relevant, fun and quick to complete. This is in contrast to the “sugging”, random calls about life insurance from call centres abroad and of course in recent years, the proliferation of scams.

Routine TPS screening sounds sensible but in the final analysis doesn’t make as much sense (research or financial) as one might think neither for the quality of the research nor the cost of the project.

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