When: February 2013
Law stated as at: 28 February 2013
Ofcom published the latest edition of its Telecoms Complaints Bulletin.
This revealed two dramatic increases which were not good news for UK telemarketers.
The first increase was in complaints over silent/abandoned calls. These are mostly the result of using “predictive dialler” technology.
This is used to maximise the amount of time call centre agents spend speaking to consumers.
The technology dials numbers automatically, but problems arise if, when the call recipient answers the phone, there is no call centre agent available to take the call. This results in the consumer hearing silence because the predictive dialler has already terminated the call.
This causes distress and leads to complaints to Ofcom, who under s. 127.2 of the Communications Act 2003 has the power to impose fines of up to £2m.
The latest report shows that between December 2012 and January 2013 complaints jumped from 1788 to 2398. Although over a 3 month period complaints fell compared with the previous quarter, this was still cause for concern, so Ofcom repeated its commitment to its 5 point action plan to curb this practice, comprising:
1. new research to help understand the frequency of different types of nuisance calls and identify those responsible;
2. call tracing initiatives in collaboration with industry to help develop new ways of tracing perpetrators trying to hide their identity;
3. improving compliance by writing to businesses making calls and warning them of the silent call rules;
4. co-ordinated action to tackle the wider issue of nuisance calls alongside other regulators such as ICO; and
5. enforcement action including imposing substantial fines where appropriate.
Do not call list abuse complaints increases
The second jump was in complaints by those who had registered their telephone numbers with the UK’s “Do not call” list (the Telephone Preference Service or “TPS”) but were still receiving cold marketing calls.
Between December 2012 and January 2013, complaints rose from 4962 to 9498. Although this followed a period of lower complaint volumes during the Christmas/New Year period, the near doubling of complaints suggested particular drivers at work. The TPS’s suspicion was that this reflected increased marketing activity by companies
offering help with payment protection insurance mis-selling claims.
Why this matters:
One payment protection insurance claim business has already blotted its copy book with a £440,000 fine imposed by ICO for spam texting.
However, so far as the writer is aware, we have yet to see any fine being imposed for cold calling in breach of “Do not call” laws.
Perhaps, as with spam texting, abuse of the TPS by PPI claim agents in 2013 will lead to a first in this area.