HomeServe fined £750,000 for silent callsOfcom imposes fine for breach of call centre rules

19 April 2012

Ofcom

HomeServe, the home insurance and repairs company, has received a £750,000 from Ofcom for making 'excessive' silent and abandoned calls to UK consumers.

Following an investigation opened by the communications watchdog last year, Ofcom has today ruled that the number of abandoned calls made by HomeServe exceeded an acceptable call rate limit on 42 occasions between 1 February and 21 March 2011.

According to Ofcom's rules, no more than 3% of a company's calls to consumers in one day can be abandoned.

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How the calls are made

A company can make 'silent' calls, or abandon calls that are picked up by the receiver, using 'diallers' and answer machine detection (AMD) technology.

Numbers are dialled automatically and only connect the caller when the phone's picked up. If an answer phone is detected, the call's disconnected so the agent doesn't need to waste time finding out someone's not home.

HomeServe calls

According to Ofcom, HomeServe made an estimated 14,756 abandoned calls to consumers in less than two months.

HomeServe also made 36,218 repeat calls, which are also prohibited by Ofcom. These involve a company redialling the same number repeatedly over a 24 hour period.

'Annoyance', 'inconvenience' and 'anxiety'

Technology like automatic diallers and AMD can make call centres more efficient, but problems arise if a dialler generates more calls than the agents can cope with, or the AMD technology mistakenly identifies an answer machine when in fact someone has picked up the call.

Ofcom has been monitoring these silent and abandoned calls as the regulator believes they can cause 'annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety' for consumers.

Compensation

In a statement, HomeServe said: 'HomeServe identified the issue and promptly reported it to Ofcom, following an internal audit of all of HomeServe's telemarketing operations. The problem was identified as having resulted from the incorrect use of Answering Machine Detection (AMD) technology via an outsourcer. HomeServe can confirm that it no longer works with outsourcers on its outbound marketing and that AMD is no longer used in any calls made by the company.'

HomeServe has set up a helpline for anyone affected by its silent or abandoned calls. If your phone number matches HomeServe's records, you may be entitled to £10 compensation. The number to call if you've been affected is 0800 389 5280.

Dialler systems now compliant

HomeServe went on to add: 'HomeServe can also confirm that all of its dialler systems have been fully compliant with Ofcom regulations since 22 March 2011, following the rectification of the errors identified during HomeServe's audit.'

In a bid to crack down on silent and abandoned calls, Ofcom has been allowed to fine companies between £50,000 and £2m. This is the first time the regulator has imposed a fine of this nature since the financial penalty available increased in September 2010.

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