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Cold callers in shock as Ofcom disagrees silent calls benefit consumers

6th January 2017

Cold callers are in shock. Ofcom has held a consultation on persistent abuse of the communications network and has decided it may start taking enforcement action against companies that make silent and/or abandoned calls. Or actually, it's slightly more complicated. Ofcom could already take action against abusive marketing pests but it never was much of a priority. They've only now realised how much people hate these type of calls, and so they've decided to start prioritising this type of abuse. From March this year they may go after cold calling farms that specialise in silent and/or abandoned calls.

It goes without saying that the likes of the Direct Marketing Association are upset. But what really caused shockwaves in the contact centre world is the fact Ofcom has clarified that they shouldn't make any silent or abandoned calls. In 2010, Ofcom had said that a three per cent abandoned call rate would be used as a criterion for prioritising cases for enforcement action. The cold calling industry wrongly deduced that silent and abandoned calls are therefore perfectly fine, as long as those type of calls are kept below three per cent of the total number of nuisance calls. And so cold calling farms happily kept using automated calling systems, which madly ring numbers and, if a call is answered, pass the victim to an available cold calling agent. (Silent calls happen when no agent is available).

The Direct Marketing Association was one of the 56 respondents to Ofcom's consultation. Not mentioned in the consultation paper is that they also met with Ofcom face-to-face. That's how democracy works – certain respondents are treated as VIPs. It appears, though, that all the lobby group achieved is that Ofcom will be a little more lenient when it comes to abandoned calls. Such calls are different from silent calls in that the cold caller will play a pre-recorded message when no agent is available. As far as Ofcom is concerned all those recorded messages about PPI and oven cleaning are not that bad. In fact, the consultation documents states that these messages are usually information messages.

More importantly, though, Ofcom didn't swallow everything the cold calling industry told them. One of the main arguments against Ofcom's proposed policy was that the cost of compliance with the policy in terms of lost efficiencies would greatly exceed the benefits to consumers, making the proposed approach disproportionate. I know that's a bit of mouthful but I'd like you to consider the argument. What they're saying is that silent and abandoned calls are good for you! Without automated calling systems and similar technologies cold calling farms would be making less cold calls, and so you, dear consumer, would miss out on all sorts of special offers… Much to the cold calling industry's dismay Ofcom didn't buy that argument.

In a funny way I do pity marketeers.

Last updated: 
6th January 2017

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