Ofcom’s new rules on abandoned and silent calls – which have enforced a zero tolerance approach to the issue – have sparked widespread confusion in the telemarketing industry, with the regulator’s refusal to provide guidance leaving many firms fearing that they will soon receive a knock at the door for not being compliant.
That is the conclusion of a new study carried out by DMA Contact Centre Council among UK contact centres to better understand their approach to Ofcom’s Persistent Misuse Regulations which came into force nearly 18 months ago.
There are estimated to be 6,2001 contact centres in the UK, with about a 250,000 agents making outbound calls to businesses and consumers. The new regulations remove any concept of a ‘safe harbour’ level of abandoned calls that Ofcom would tolerate (which was previously taken to be 3% of calls) and make ‘silent calls’ their top priority for enforcement action, further challenging the use of answer machine detection technologies.
In addition they highlight the deliberate mis-use of CLIs (Call Line Identification – the number which appears as the caller ID on the recipient’s phone) to deceive customers and demanded contact centres actively inspect and manage the technology solutions they use for outbound dialling.
Early last year, the DMA called on Ofcom to provide guidance, however, the regulator has so far refused.
According to the DMA Contact Centre Council study, a disturbingly high proportion of centres a still reporting high abandoned call rates – with nearly one in three reporting figures of 3% or above.
This problem is compounded by the fact that since launching the new Persistent Misuse regulations Ofcom has not publicised any enforcement actions it has taken.
It is understood that many of the consumer complaints investigated by Ofcom are from centres ‘spoofing’ CLIs, often located offshore, which it cannot take action against. However, this unavoidably means there is no real-world evidence on which contact centre operators might cross-reference their interpretation of the rules.
At the same time as Ofcom’s Persistent Misuse regulations have taken effect, Ofcom, the Telephone Preference Service and the ICO have all reported lowered levels of consumer complaints about so-called nuisance calls. Multiple reasons for this positive change have been identified, including the rise of call blocking services, ICO’s actions and Ofcom’s increased pressure on telephony re-sellers to restrict the access of rogue callers.
Steve Sullivan, deputy chair of the DMA Contact Centre Council and founder of Channel Doctors, said: “Rogue nuisance callers have probably never paid any heed to Ofcom’s regulations. And if – as this research appears to demonstrate – legitimate contact centres and brands still don’t understand the regulations, then that’s major concern for us all.”
He urges all contact centres, or brands which employ contact centres making outbound calls, to study the DMA’s Advice on Persistent Misuse document which he insists offers a balanced guide to ensuring contact centres remain compliant while outbound calling. For more information click here>
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