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Volume 268: debated on Tuesday 12 December 1995

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to review the need for controls on cold calling telephone marketing; and what plans the European Commission has on this issue. [4924]

The Government see a legitimate role for telesales calls but want to encourage responsible business practices for companies using this technique. Regulation of telesales calls is partly achieved through conditions in telecommunications licences but there is considerable practical difficulty in developing regulations that can be effectively implemented and enforced. The Office of Telecommunications has encouraged the setting up of the telephone preference service, launched last January. It is a voluntary scheme supported by the industry and provides a welcome means for telecommunications subscribers to let it be known if they do not wish to receive such calls.A common position on the European Commission proposals for a directive on distance selling was agreed on 29 June 1995 which satisfied United Kingdom concerns. However, this text is currently under scrutiny by the European Parliament, which can recommend changes.I am concerned about a number of the amendments which the European Parliament is considering, which, if implemented, would mean that telephone sales calls would be subject to a statutory prior consent requirement. Such recommendations would be unwelcome to UK business and we are briefing MEPs accordingly.