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Ofcom fines TalkTalk AGAIN - a whopping £750k over 'abandoned calls' gaffe

Budget ISP's call centre teams were SilentSilent

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Ofcom has once again fined telco TalkTalk, after the company swamped potential customers with silent calls. It now has to pay £750,000 for failing to comply with UK law.

The ISP was hit with a massive £3m penalty from the communications watchdog in 2011 for wrongly billing tens of thousands of customers for services they never received and then failing to fix the cockup.

Ofcom has a policy that sets a limit on the number of abandoned calls made by companies. In its latest ruling against TalkTalk, it found that the firm - during a telemarketing campaign that uses AMD technology - "exceeded the limit by a substantial amount on four separate occasions between 1 February and 21 March 2011".

The regulator added:

TalkTalk also failed to ensure that information messages were played, meaning that consumers received silent calls. As a result, TalkTalk made approximately 9,000 silent and abandoned calls to consumers.

During a separate marketing campaign, TalkTalk did not adequately follow Ofcom’s policy by failing to ensure that when using AMD technology to make calls to consumers, it created a reasoned estimate of the technology’s accuracy. It also failed to keep adequate records to demonstrate its compliance with Ofcom’s policy.

Ofcom’s policy also aims to prevent repeat silent calls. If AMD equipment detects an answer machine, any repeat calls to that number on that same day should only be made if a call centre agent is guaranteed to be able to handle the call. TalkTalk failed to abide by this policy on one day between 1 February and 21 March 2011.

The watchdog explained that a £750,000 fine was necessary for failing to comply with the law relating to "persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or electronic communications service".

TalkTalk had also flouted Ofcom's rules on abandoned and silent calls, Ofcom added.

It was found "ultimately responsible" for the actions of two of its suppliers - call centre outfits Teleperformance Ltd and McAlpine Marketing Ltd - which had made the calls.

"Silent and abandoned calls can cause annoyance and distress to consumers. Companies must abide by the law and Ofcom’s policies. If they fail to do so then Ofcom will take firm action," said the watchdog's consumer group director Claudio Pollack. "Today’s penalty sends out a strong message to organisations using call centres that they must comply or face the consequences."

TalkTalk, in a statement, blamed its suppliers for the fine.

In February and March 2011, two of TalkTalk’s suppliers, Teleperformance and McAlpine Marketing, made a number of silent and abandoned marketing calls. TalkTalk demands high standards from the companies it works with and as a result TalkTalk immediately stopped using these suppliers.

Both suppliers addressed the root cause of the problem and TalkTalk will fully recover the financial penalty imposed by Ofcom from these companies.

TalkTalk works with all its partners to ensure that regulations are adhered to and that customers continue to get good service and best value. We apologise to anyone who received one of these silent or abandoned calls, made on our behalf, in 2011.

TalkTalk has 30 days to pay the fine in full to Ofcom, which will then pass the cash on to the Treasury. The ISP could have been fined anything as high as £2m under section 130 of the Communications Act 2003, which gives Ofcom powers to dole out penalties to those found to have "persistently misused an electronic communications network or electronic communications services". ®

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