Ofcom gives industry silent treatment over diallers

callerEfforts to get Ofcom to review its stance on its new ‘persistent misuse’ policy on abandoned calls has so far fallen on deaf ears, with the regulator refusing to bow to DMA demands for clarification around the use of automatic diallers.
Last month Ofcom sent shockwaves through the telemarketing industry by pressing ahead with its zero tolerance approach to both silent and abandoned calls.
Under the new regime, any abandoned call is classified as misuse, while the definition of persistent misuse has moved away from ‘three single abandoned calls’ to arguably a broader definition.
The DMA points out that hundreds of UK brands currently use automated diallers. These diallers can result in occasional ‘abandoned calls’, whereby the customer will receive a recorded message explaining who has called and why. Responsible brands have been working to a 3% ‘safe harbour’ whereby a maximum of 3% of their calls could result in the customer receiving this type of message.
This had previously been unanimously accepted by industry as the level at which an organisation could operate compliantly. With the release of Ofcom’s latest version of its policy the regulator makes it clear that this was a misinterpretation by the industry. Brands and call centres will now have to decide for themselves what they consider to be ‘persistent misuse’ causing uncertainty across the industry.
The DMA is concerned that the regulator’s decision and its refusal to provide guidance will not achieve the stated aim of reducing the number of silent and abandoned calls. Instead, it will increase costs for UK businesses and potentially force them down other routes such as moves to more impersonal recorded messages.
In the interests of contact centres and ultimately their customers, the DMA believes that a ‘safe harbour’ should be reinstated to allow a small proportion of abandoned calls.
DMA director of external affairs Mike Lordan said: “We are calling on Ofcom to fulfil its role as the industry regulator and give the necessary guidance to companies. The current policy only details how the regulator will enforce the policy but not what the policy actually means.
“By refusing to set a limit on the number of legitimate abandoned calls or guidance on how to define ‘persistent misuse’ Ofcom have added yet more uncertainty and concern for businesses trying to operate compliantly.”

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