HC Deb 16 November 1998 vol 319 c434W
Ms Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action he proposes to take to deal with unsolicited direct marketing faxes and calls; and if he will make a statement. [60316]

Mrs. Roche

Unsolicited direct marketing faxes and phone calls can be a real source of annoyance and an invasion of privacy, and the Government take these problems seriously. We will be dealing with them in forthcoming Regulations under the European Communities Act 1972 which will implement the Telecommunications Data Protection Directive (97/66/EC).

The DTI has carried out a wide consultation on draft Regulations with both business and consumer interests. We are now revising the Regulations in the light of comments received and hope, before the end of this year, to make and lay Regulations before Parliament. In accordance with the Directive, these will ban unsolicited direct marketing faxes from being sent to any private individual or sole trader in the UK, as well as to any partnership in England and Wales. The Regulations will also establish an "opt-out" scheme for corporate subscribers who do not wish to receive such faxes. A similar "opt-out" scheme will enable individuals to avoid receiving unsolicited direct marketing calls.

Our intention is to bring the Regulations into force as soon as is practicable next year, bearing in mind the need to ensure that an effective mechanism is set in place so that the "opt-out" schemes can deliver the level of protection required. We will also take into account the need to allow sufficient time for industry to establish its compliance systems.

The Government previously stated that they intended the draft Regulations to come into force on the same date as the Data Protection Act 1998. In his written answer of 26 October 1998, Official Report, column 58, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), announced that, because of the need to prepare and consult on substantial subordinate legislation, the Government now hoped to bring the Data Protection Act 1998 into force in the second quarter of next year. We do not anticipate that this will affect the timing of the Regulations dealing with unsolicited direct marketing calls and faxes.