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In detail

Why is it important to know the PECR rules before making live marketing calls?

Using live calls to speak to people about marketing messages is a very useful way to grow your business or gain support for your cause. However, many people find unsolicited live marketing calls intrusive or a nuisance.

It is important to know what the PECR rules are before you start your telephone marketing campaign so that you don’t breach PECR. Getting things wrong not only damages trust and confidence in you and your reputation, but in some cases the ICO can also fine you. See the section What happens if we do not comply with PECR when making live marketing calls? for further information.

This guidance supports and empowers you to use marketing by live calls to connect with your customers and supporters, while protecting people from unwanted intrusion and nuisance.

What are live calls?

PECR do not use the terminology of ‘live’ calls. We commonly use the term ‘live’ call to distinguish this method of call from automated calls (ie those made by an automated dialling system that plays a recorded message). This is because these two methods of making direct marketing calls have different rules in PECR.

A live call is therefore a telephone call where a live person is speaking to the person they are calling.


What is direct marketing?

PECR takes its definition of direct marketing from the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018). This is because any undefined term within PECR has the same meaning as in the UK data protection regime.

The DPA 2018 says that direct marketing means:

“the communication (by whatever means) of advertising or marketing material which is directed to particular individuals”

This definition is broad and covers all types of advertising, marketing or promotional material. It includes:

  • commercial marketing (eg promotion of products and services); and
  • the promotion of aims and ideals (eg fundraising or campaigning).

The definition covers any means of communication which includes marketing by live calls.

The definition doesn’t cover live calls made for administrative or customer service purposes. For example, calls to check that someone’s details are correct or to advise them of a problem with their account. These types of messages are often referred to as “service messages". They don’t count as direct marketing if you use them purely for administrative purposes. This is because you aren’t advertising or marketing in these messages. However, if you include promotional content within your service call, then the call counts as direct marketing. For example, content aiming to get your customer to buy more products or increase their donations.

Likewise, live calls for genuine market research purposes don’t count as direct marketing. But if the call includes elements of promotional material or you collect details to send that person future marketing communications, then the call is direct marketing.

What type of live marketing calls are covered?

PECR covers any type of live marketing call. So it covers any live call that you make that is advertising, selling, promoting, fundraising or campaigning.

However, there are stricter rules on making some types of live marketing calls. See What are the rules on live direct marketing calls? for more information.

Does PECR apply even if we don’t know the name of the person we want to call?

You don’t need to know the name of the person you are calling for PECR’s live marketing call rules to apply. This is because the rules aren’t limited to calls that involve using personal data.

The marketing rules in PECR protect “subscribers”. The subscriber is the customer who has a contract with the service provider – in other words, the person named on the bill for the telephone line or internet connection. There are two types of subscriber in PECR:

  • Corporate subscribers are corporate bodies with separate legal status (eg companies, limited liability partnerships, Scottish partnerships).
  • Individual subscribers are people but also include some types of businesses (eg sole traders and some types of partnerships).

The PECR rules on live marketing calls apply to both types of subscriber. This means that businesses have the same protections as people.


Further reading