Swedes hang up on telesales firms

Well over a million households in Sweden have blocked telephone sales people from calling them, forcing direct marketing firms to find alternative routes to their potential customers. But the marketers are rising to the challenge.

The number of Swedes who decided that they did not want to be disturbed by determined telesales people increased by several hundred thousand in 2006. Now a record 1.3 million telephone subscribers have put themselves on the ‘Nix register’ of numbers to be avoided by salespeople, an increase of 35 percent since 2005.

Companies which sell their goods or services over the telephone must check that every number they call is not on the register.

“People are joining it because they are fed up with the number of calls they’re getting from salespeople,” said Axel Tandberg, a lawyer at Swedma, the direct marketing industry organisation.

Telesales companies are adapting to the diminishing pool of numbers, however.

“Now we work more with current customers instead of targeting new ones – that’s a big difference from before,” said Johan Tengelin, vice-chairman of the Swedish Call Centre Association.

“You can’t be stopped from talking to a customer you already have a relationship with,” he said.

The fact that there are over a million Swedes in the Nix register does not bother Tengelin, but he is worried that the number will keep growing.

“In future competition between products sold on the phone could decline, which would hit consumers with price increases,” he said.

A more recent register has been set up to give people plagued with junk mail some respite. 80,000 households have subscribed and the ‘no mailing’ register grew by over 10 percent last year.