The telemarketing industry is bracing itself for a major crackdown with Ofcom planning to enforce a “zero tolerance” approach, meaning that just one silent or abandoned call would land a brand owner in breach of the rules and potentially facing a fine.
The regulator has now completed its consultation on how it uses its so-called “persistent misuse” powers, covering both silent and abandoned calls and, although the findings are yet to be published, sources suggest that it is hellbent on the zero tolerance approach for both.
The industry has long argued that silent and abandoned calls are two separate issues. Silent calls are often made by telemarketing firms using automatic diallers and usually from overseas. Abandoned calls, however, are calls that do not reach an agent because of capacity issues.
The current rules state that no more than 3% of calls are allowed to be silent or abandoned and initially it was thought that Ofcom would slash that to as few as three calls in one day, but it seems even this has been rejected as too lenient.
The move would effectively wipe out diallers for good, as, no matter how careful companies are, diallers will occasionally throw up the odd abandoned call. It would also mean if a company misdialled a number and hung up, then this too would be a breach. Ofcom has the power to fine firms up to £2m for both silent and abandoned calls.
In the consultation document, Ofcom states that 1.5 billion silent calls and 200 million abandoned calls are made every year. Ofcom received 44,900 complaints in the 12 months up to October 2015 over the issue.
Mike Lordan, head of external affairs at the DMA, said: “Ofcom has done the right thing to hold its consultation into silent and abandoned calls.
“We think the focus should be on where the harm is, which is silent calls. For these types of call, then we are on the same page as Ofcom and think there should be zero tolerance to protect consumers – no silent call is acceptable.
“However, an unintended consequence of Ofcom’s line on abandoned calls, as set out in the consultation paper, we believe would lead to an effective ban on diallers, which we do not support.”
Ofcom is expected to publish its report next month.
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