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Ofcom comes down hard on 'silent calls'

Carphone Warehouse cops £35k fine

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Ofcom has slapped susbstantial fines on four UK companies for "causing annoyance to consumers through the making of silent or abandoned calls" in contravention of the Communications Act 2003.

The UK's telecoms watchdog penalised Bracken Bay Kitchens (£40,000 fine), Carphone Warehouse (£35,000), Space Kitchens (£45,000), and Toucan (£32,500) following a self-initiated investigation and "four notifications of misuse of networks and services that Ofcom issued to these companies on 3 November 2006".

The Ofcom statement continues: "In the notifications, Ofcom set out its findings that there were reasonable grounds to believe that each of these companies has engaged in persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or electronic communication services in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience, or anxiety to consumers. This conduct contravenes section 128(5)(a) and section 128(6)(a) of the Act."

Specifically, Ofcom found the four companies had:

  • Repeatedly exceeded the three per cent limit for abandoned calls. Between April and July 2006 all four companies' abandoned call rates regularly exceeded three per cent and in some cases were higher than 20 per cent;
  • Failed to include a recorded information message to prevent abandoned calls from being silent calls, during some or all of the period under investigation;
  • Engaged in other forms of conduct which Ofcom considers contribute to the persistent misuse as set out in Ofcom guidelines and specified in the notification issued to each company.

"Silent calls," as Ofcom notes, "can occur when automated calling systems used by call centres generate more calls than the available call centre agents can manage". When the intended target picks up the phone and there's no agent available, "the automated calling system abandons the call".

The silence-generating quartet were given until 6 December last year to answer the charges. Once Ofcom had "considered representations by each of the companies", it "decided to issue a financial penalty in each case". ®

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