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PS stands for Preference Service. Now to me, the word “preference” would tend to infer a predilection toward something or other. However in this case, for some strange reason, it actually means the opposite. The DMA preference service is for people who don’t want the bloody thing even if you gift wrapped it and enclosed a nice little prezzy.
Yes, it’s all about unwanted contact from folk purveying dodgy schmatter. Now unfortunately (at least in my view), there is no Preference Service that says, “Get your bloody finger off of my doorbell before I break it, you bastard!” No, - when it comes to itinerant tinkers and the like, I’m afraid you’re on your own. So next time some red-faced, rigger booted individual with more than just a touch of the Celt in him knocks on your door and says conspiratorially, “Excuse me sor, but me an the lads ‘ave got a bit of the old black stuff left over from workin’ on the M1 an’ sure wouldn’t it look fine an’ dandy on yer drive?”, then I’m afraid I can’t help you. However, woe betide the same fellow if he telephones, sends you a letter, FAX or E-mail. Oh yes, the DMA’ll have his guts for garters if he does that, don’t you worry. That’s always assuming of course that they ever found him…
DMA? The Direct Marketing Association, that’s who the DMA is. They’ve got a spiffy little website called www.dma.org.uk and you can schlep over there and avail yourself of their preference service free and for gratis. How about that then?
Actually, there are five preference services to choose from, Telephone, Mail, FAX and E-mail. They are quaintly referred to as TPS, MPS, FPS and EPS, er… did I say five? Well, yes MPS has a derivative called baby MPS which I’ll cover below. Here’s what they do…
You simply register your phone number and/or address (including e-mail if you want EPS) with the website and the story goes that after 28 days no one will ever contact you again to flog you anything. Good huh? Well, possibly. Aside from TPS and FPS, it’s all a bit woolly really. The Telephone and FAX preference lists are policed by the Data Protection Registrar and enforceable at law by the DTI but the others are purely voluntary
Leaving aside MPS and EPS for the moment, anyone who phones or faxes a number listed on TPS or FPS in an attempt to sell their wares is liable to a fine of 500 sovs FOR EACH INFRINGEMENT! Ouch! Actually, it’s even more draconian than that. It doesn’t just apply to cold calling. For example, a company can’t even phone an existing customer with an offer if the telephone number is registered. If your car-dealer were to phone you to inform you that your car was due for a service, then technically they would be in breach of the act. Bummer huh? Personally, I like the idea of being told when my car needs a good seeing to, if you get my drift. The other funny thing about TPS and FPS is that the lists, for obvious reasons, carry no personal identification information. All you get when you cough up the money to the DMA is a list of phone numbers. When you register, you register a phone number, not a person or group. Now, in theory, the DMA should check that the phone number you’ve given them matches the accompanying address. However it’s an almost impossible task due to the current sad state of telephone number registry in the UK - it’s managed by BT using an ancient system called OSIS. It sort of works but it’s full of holes and it restricts checking against Ex Directory numbers and the like (something like 40% of all UK domestic phone numbers are Ex Directory – the highest proportion in the World. Paranoid? Not us!). The upshot is that you can have hours of harmless fun registering telephone boxes, pubs, other people’s phone numbers and the like. You’d have to be a weirdo to want to do it, but you can. Some years ago I was involved in testing the integrity of the system – it was shite then and it’s shite now. To be fair to the DMA they take the view that it doesn’t really matter how much crap there is in there provided that it protects genuine punters who are fed up to the back teeth with junk mail and phone calls. If you honestly register your telephone number then around 28 days later it will turn up on the list and anyone who then makes a sales phone call to you is, in principle, due a good kicking from the DTI. What actually happens is that every now and again the department singles some poor bugger out for a slapping in order to keep everybody else in line. They simply don’t have the time or the resource to follow up every single complaint. Fair enough.
So do companies observe it? Actually a lot don’t. In practice, they should run their call lists against TPS to remove any hits before they schedule them onto the outbound call center. Trouble is many of them simply don’t have the mechanics (computer systems) to do it and others just don’t give a shit. I’ve been registered with TPS for ages and I still get calls from time to time (admittedly nowhere near as many as I used to). Still, better than a poke in the eye with a pointy stick, as my silver haired old granny was wont to say. Actually, I don’t mind that much, it’s fun to take the moral high ground with some jumped up double-glazing salesman by politely informing him that you are registered with TPS and your next phone call will be to the DMA. Tends to shut the buggers up quickski!
MPS (Mailing Preference Service), Baby MPS (a preference list for people who have had an infant bereavement) and EPS (E-mail Preference Service) are purely voluntary lists and not covered by any law at the moment. I don’t know much about Baby MPS because it’s three or four years since I was directly involved with the Preference Service and it’s fairly new. However I am willing to bet that even though participation is voluntary, anyone in the business of mailing to expectant and new mothers will almost certainly observe it, unless of course, they are total bloody idiots. As to the other two, MPS and EPS, well you can register if you want but I doubt that it will much lessen the volume of junk mail which thunders through your letter box each morning and I can virtually guarantee that it will make not the slightest bloody difference to the junk email you receive. Rest assured, you will still get the penis enlargement and Viagra ads. Ho hum.
So there you go, the DMA Preference Services at the gallop.
Thanks for that - didn't realise that there were others than the TPS. I love telling the odd mobile phone salesman that they've just broken the law big time and I suggest they don't call me again! (That's after starting the conversation with "Are you selling anything? - No, we're just doing research .....10 minutes later ... It's a great offer blah blah blah!!!)
minigrile 28.11.2003 22:28
TPS works\for me - I love telling the odd ones who still ring that I'm registered. Haven't tried the others. I just have a notice by the front door instead, with an arrow pointing to the green recycling box. Seems to work quite well.
SueMagee 02.04.2003 10:41
The next time the lads with the black stuff come a-calling tell them that you're an Inspector of Taxes and have the number of their lorry. They shift pretty quick you know!