Ageas Retail Limited, a specialist insurer to the over 50s, has today been fined by Ofcom for making abandoned calls.
An abandoned phone call occurs when a consumer picks up the receiver, but there is no one on the other end of the line.
The Ofcom investigation into Ageas found that the company made 148 abandoned calls to UK consumers over three separate days during a seven week period.
In doing so, Ageas was found to be in breach of legislation relating to ‘persistent misuse of a telephone network or service’, although the degree of seriousness and harm to consumers was at the lower end of the scale.
Taking this into account, Ofcom has imposed a fine of £10,000 on Ageas. This also reflects the company’s offer of a £10 shopping voucher to affected consumers and the steps it has taken to bring itself into compliance.
The fine is payable to Ofcom and passed on to HM Treasury and Ageas is required to pay it within 30 days of receiving the penalty notification.
Abandoned calls can be caused by automated calling systems or ‘diallers’ which organisations use to maximise the amount of time their calling agents spend speaking to consumers. These systems are mainly used in call centres to dial telephone numbers automatically and connect people to call centre agents as soon as the phone is answered.
Problems may occur, however, if the dialler makes a call but there is no call centre agent on hand to deal with it, leading to an abandoned call.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, said: “The law is there to protect consumers from suffering annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, including from abandoned calls.
“Organisations using call centres must comply with the law or face the consequences. Where we find breaches, even at the lower end of the scale, we can take action.”
Review of persistent misuse policy
Ofcom has today begun a review of its ‘persistent misuse’ policy.
The existing policy identifies silent and abandoned calls as two examples of misuse. It describes steps organisations can take to avoid making them and to reduce consumer harm where they do occur.
The review will explore whether there is scope for improving the policy and Ofcom is today asking for initial views on what, if any, changes could be made to:
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Ofcom has powers to take action if an organisation or individual persistently misuses an electronic communications network or service. Ofcom’s current ‘persistent misuse’ policy identifies the making of abandoned calls as a form of misuse. It sets out circumstances in which Ofcom is more likely to take action against companies who make such calls. We take into account the steps a caller takes to limit the harm to consumers and the rate of abandoned calls they make. Ofcom’s investigation into Ageas found that the company had exceeded an abandoned call rate of three per cent of live calls over a 24-hour period on three separate occasions between 21 July 2013 and 7 September 2013. This resulted in approximately 148 abandoned calls being made to consumers.
2. Section 130 of the Communications Act 2003 gives Ofcom the power to impose financial penalties on parties found to have persistently misused an electronic communications network or service. In September 2010, Parliament approved an increase in the maximum financial penalty available to Ofcom to use to combat persistent misuse from £50,000 to £2m. Ofcom has an ongoing monitoring and enforcement programme that seeks to address consumer harm from persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service. This has resulted in action against 13 companies to date (including Ageas) resulting in financial penalties. Investigations were also opened into Sambora Communications, Green Deal Savings, Redress Financial Management Limited and MYIML Limited this year.
3.Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.
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