Telecoms regulator Ofcom is understood to have abandoned its plan to enforce a “zero tolerance” approach to telemarketing, which could have seen just one silent or abandoned call land a brand owner in breach of the rules and potentially facing a fine.
The regulator completed its consultation in February on how it uses its so-called “persistent misuse” powers on both silent and abandoned calls. And, although the findings have yet to be published, sources suggest that it has performed a U-turn on the zero tolerance approach for both.
In what will be seen as a major victory for industry lobbying, it is understood the regulator will retain the current rules which state that no more than 3% of calls are allowed to be silent or abandoned.
When Ofcom first announced its plan, it was thought that just three silent or adandoned calls would land a firm in hot water; a few weeks later it was revealed that it would only take a single call for companies to be punished.
At the time, DMA head of external affairs Mike Lordan said: “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 – 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.”
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.
Diallers can occasionally throw up the odd abandoned call and the zero tolerance approach would also have meant that 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 stated 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.
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