UK Regulation Is A Mess -- Just Ask A Spam Caller Or Influencer

It was time to celebrate this week. Cold callers would be punished more heavily by the regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), if they didn't have permission to make a call. Newscasters lined up to welcome the news.

As ever, I was not in a jubilant mood. British advertising regulation is a joke -- a complete mess. Regular readers will know of my disdain for a process that takes months to instigate and only ever results in a past campaign not being able to run again, as if it was ever going to be. I complained about an ad for winter tyres that was successfully upheld. Trouble was, by the time the ASA got to look into it, we were in the middle of the summer heat wave. Not being able to promote snow tyres when the temperature is soaring is hardly a punishment, is it?

Again, today, we have news that some person who stars in that pointless show "Made In Chelsea," where apparently vacuous toffs date each other and have tiffs endlessly, has been told off for the second time this year by the ASA. First, she carried an Instagram ad for a watch brand -- and even after that story was "banned," she did the same for a makeup brush more recently. Well, actually, the post was put up in May and it has only just been flagged up by the ASA as banned.

All the "celebrity" has to do was scroll back and delete a post she would have banked thousand of pounds for months ago. Does the regulator not realise it's not ancient history and that nobody would be looking at the post anymore anyway? Where's the enforced suspension of her account? Where's the fine? Where's the requirement for her to return the fee to charity? I'm not calling for a public hanging here, but how can an influencer dupe the system twice in the same year and still be allowed to pocket thousands of pounds? It beggars belief.

So with the disdain I have for advertising regulation in the UK, I was, for once, very pleased to receive a rogue call. I have signed my numbers up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and so receive very few rogue marketing calls, particularly on my landline. This more recent call was one of those robotic voices that responds when you talk and assures you they can sue someone for some accident they have been sent the details of. You know the kind of call.

Given the new stance, I immediately did my civic duty and used the TPS form to report an unsolicited nuisance call. I had a record of the calling number, as well as the time and date on my mobile device, so filling in the form took just a couple of minutes. 

The result? A lot of text on the screen that basically told me to report the call to the ICO because it broke privacy rules, and that's their domain.

So off I trot to the ICO complaint form by clicking the supplied link. The same details were given and "submit" was selected. Then, guess what? Yep, you got it in one. A long message says that unsolicited calls should be reported to the TPS because, if you are signed up, the transgressor has broken that system. 

Yes, those very rules that the newscasters told us were there to protect the public from this type of call are actually just a means of sending someone reporting nuisance calls scuttling between the ICO and the TPS. Neither offers a solution -- both just shrug and say tell the other person.

This morning, I tried again to make sure I wasn't being harsh and that the system wasn't as bad as I suspected. However, the link from the TPS complaint form that points to the ICO was down. It had obviously been updated.

A search on the ICO website found a new and very different form compared to the older-looking page the previous linked had pointed to. Eventually, after several days of trying, I got to complain here. The confirmation at the end of the process leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of logging the number you are reporting and promising to let you know if the criminals are ever pursued, you are instead offered the chance to sign up to generic information about action the ICO has taken.

Come on guys, you have my email, and you have the number I am reporting. Just add it to a database and let me know if any action is ever taken against the guys using that number, and doubtless many others. 

I eventually got to file a complaint, so what's my beef? Well, if you've registered with the TPS, they're still not interested when someone breaks the system, and worse still, the action they advise you to take is to visit a web page that no longer exists. It's only by searching high and low on the ICO website that you can find the correct link.

I'm not so sure many people will bother once the system that is supposed to protect them admits the extent to which it cannot be bothered to take action is underlined by a broken link. 

The system is a mess, and that's putting it politely. 

Next story loading loading..