Ofcom is launching a major probe into the telemarketing industry which could see it issue fines for as few as just three silent and abandoned calls made in one day.
So far, most of the blame for nuisance calls has been laid squarely at rogue companies, including claims management and green energy firms. Just over a year ago, Ofcom fined two firms – Green Deal Savings and MYIML – £20,000 each for making tens of thousands of silent calls.
However, the regulator has now launched a consultation, reviewing how it uses its “persistent misuse” powers, and such a low threshold will mean many legitimate businesses are likely to face new action unless they overhaul their operations.
Persistent misuse powers relate to organisations that misuse the telecoms network causing annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to consumers. Ofcom has enforcement powers to prevent such harms affecting consumers.
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.
The problem remains widespread in spite of previous action, fuelling fears that its current policy is simply not working.
At the moment, companies must ensure that no more than 3% of calls are abandoned but it believes this has been interpreted by organisations as the threshold for enforcement action.
Now it wants to take enforcement action whenever more than three single silent or abandoned calls are made, although offenders breaching the 3% threshold will be given priority.
Where enforcement action has to be taken, Ofcom will consider all silent and abandoned calls made by an organisation, not just those that occurred on a given day when the 3% threshold was broken. Taking more calls into consideration would mean larger fines.
Ofcom also plans to streamline its enforcement procedures, freeing resources to take on more cases, which will see it issue provisional penalties to coincide with a breach notification.
The deadline for submissions to the consultation is February 10 2016.
The DMA will be submitting its own response to the consultation but wants members to contact the industry body with their own views.
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