The Earl of Northesk
asked Her Majesty's Government:What their response is to the proposal from Erkki Liikanen, the European Union Information Society Commissioner, that laws governing unsolicited phone calls should be extended to include direct marketing via e-mails and text messages. [HL387]
The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)
Current regulatory controls on unsolicited direct marketing communications are based on the telecoms data protection directive (Directive 97/66/EC). Under the UK implementing regulations for this, the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999, unsolicited non-automated telephone calls for direct marketing purposes may not be made to individual subscribers who have indicated that they do not wish to receive them (automated calls are prohibited without prior consent). There are similar rules on direct marketing faxes to corporate subscribers but individuals have the dual right both to register not to receive such faxes and not to receive such faxes unless they have consented.There is some debate over the application of the current rules to e-mail and text messages and the Government welcome the Commission's proposal to clarify the position. The new draft directive (COM(2000)385), which covers e-mail and all other electronic communications, is not expected to come forward to the Council for negotiation before April. The Government plan to issue a consultation paper in the spring on the UK's response to the draft directive.