February 11, 2018

Since the time when our blue-eyed dark-skinned forebears huddled round crackling wood fires (while wolves, wolverines, wooly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers took turns to pace the icy gloom beyond), we humans have taken a distinctly dim view of coldness.

To this very day, indeed, names suggesting coldness evoke strongly negative feelings. Cold feet, cold sore, cold-hearted, Coldplay: the associations are still, shall we say, somewhat chilling. One contemporary ill to add to this list is the infamous practice of Cold Calling.

Easily mistaken for a charmingly well-heeled Oxfordshire village, Cold Calling is in fact that thing people do when they call you up out of the blue to ask whether you have a) checked to see whether you could be due a PPI refund, b) a burning desire to replace every window in your house with something made of PVC, c) recently been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault.

Unsurprisingly, given the age-old antipathy to cold things to which we alluded above, most people do not like Cold Calling. If someone’s going to call us up, we much prefer to get a little ‘warmed up’ first. We need to get, you know, in the mood.

So, if you’re planning to call someone up and sell them smoothing, it helps if you maybe stand them a couple of drinks, pay them a compliment or too, perhaps suggest reclining on that attractive faux tiger-skin rug in front of that ‘real-flame’ heater.

This is your moment! Only then, with any suggestion of coolness sternly banished, should you dash from the room, return to HQ, pull on your headset, dial up your prospect, and quickly pop question a, b or c.

If you just call someone cold, there’s a good chance they’ll tell you where to go, pretend that they can’t hear you, that they’re going into a tunnel, or that they’re in the middle of something really important like driving a car, delivering a baby, or scanning the white-goods section of a finger-greasy laminated Argos catalogue. What’s worse, they won’t want to talk to you – or anyone like you – ever again.

To save its victims the bother of fobbing off and/or opting out – the government has decided to ban cold calling once and for all in relation to both pensions and ‘claims management’.

Clause 6 of the government’s Financial Guidance and Clams Bill was debated last week – amongst other things – in front of a live audience on the popular Committee Stage. The clause prohibits unsolicited direct marketing telephone calls in relation to claims management activities, except where the recipient has given prior consent to receiving such calls.

Opposition MPs queried whether the ban was banny enough, and wanted to know exactly what would count as consent. Some suggested that grey areas could arise where cold callers mistook mere politeness for consent, misread the signals, or otherwise misjudged the temperature of their callees. Instead, they proposed a simple outright ban on low-temperature calls of every kind.

But ultimately HMG carried the day and, for now at least, cold calling can still be allowed wherever consent is deemed to apply.

Or something like that.


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