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Carphone Warehouse rapped over 'silent' calls

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The British mobile retailer Carphone Warehouse Group plc could be hit with a penalty of up to £50,000 for making "silent" calls to its customers, communications regulator Ofcom has said.

Ofcom explains the silent call menace thus: "Silent calls can occur when automated calling systems used by call centres generate more calls than the available call centre agents can manage. When the person called answers the telephone and there is no agent available, the automated calling system abandons the call. This can result in the person called experiencing silence on the line when they answer the telephone."

Ofcom has confirmed that Carphone Warehouse had regularly exceeded the limit of three per cent of silent calls in any 24-hour period.

A raft of requirements for all outbound calls had not been put in place by the Carphone Warehouse, despite Ofcom's revised guidelines which were issued to call centres in March this year.

Rules breached included failing to providing caller line ID and full records of dialler usage as well as a recorded message to tell the customer that the lines were busy.

Three other companies' (Brakenbay Kitchens Ltd, Space Kitchens and IDT Direct) call centres have also exceeded the limit of silent calls to unacceptable levels - some persistently higher than 20 per cent, according to an Ofcom statement Ofcom released last Friday.

"There are reasonable grounds to believe that each of these four companies have engaged in persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or electronic communication services in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to consumers," said Ofcom.

As a result, the regulator could impose financial penalties to a maximum of £50,000 on each firm. It added that the companies have until 6 December to present their cases.

Ofcom was unable to provide a detailed breakdown of how many complaints the regulator had received from Carphone Warehouse customers.

But there had typically been a total of 270 silent or abandoned calls per month since the guidelines were issued, which is "a measure of the level of concern" regarding the four companies' misuse of communications, an Ofcom spokesperson told The Register.

Responding to the action taken by Ofcom, the Carphone Warehouse said in a statement: "We are and have been actively working both internally and with our third party agencies to ensure that, at the least, recorded messages are heard by the individual being dialled and that the proportion of abandoned calls falls below the threshold." ®

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