Writing from the UK, we have always been an admirer of Ofcom's (the UK telecoms regulator) attempts to control outbound activities in the UK. But their latest policy announcement on their controls has prompted some reflection we would like to share with you..
As a manufacturer of call center software that we sell all over the world, we have a vested interest in seeing our software serve real business needs, whilst at the same time delivering value to consumers.
When we launched our predictive dialer some 20 years ago it was into a market that seemed to care little about consumers. The attitude was call whoever you like, whenever you like, keep them waiting on the phone, hang up if no agent available – then keep doing it.
In retrospect it was obvious; bring in a game-changing technology at low cost and don't set reasonable rules as to how it impacts consumers. Expect chaos, and that is what we eventually got in outbound markets, everywhere.
And that is still the case today in many markets. But the chaos is arguably less in those countries who have brought in regulations.
Going back a decade or more, some countries experimented with self regulation. Great if you can make it work, but when there are no penalties for ignoring rules drawn up by say national marketing associations, then don't expect wide compliance. It just doesn't happen!
As Ofcom and other regulators around the world contemplate call center activities and scratch their heads as how to prevent abuse and establish markets that work for consumers as well as business, there seem to be three clear lessons from recent history.
The first is don't be deceived into thinking that a free market, with no constraints on call center operators, will work well. It won't.
The second is that regulation needs to be a proportionate response to both the needs and wishes of both consumers and business. If it is not, it will fail.
And the third is that regulation need to be measureable, unambiguous and enforceable. If this is not the case, then it regulation likely to be more honoured in the breach than in the observance.