The plan to tackle nuisance calls comes as Ofcom publishes its annual Consumer Experience Report, which tracks key trends in consumers’ use of communications services to inform Ofcom’s regulatory and consumer protection initiatives.
The report finds that there is a year on year growth in consumers experiencing this type of call and that during a six month period in 2012, 47% of all adults with a landline experienced a silent call. An increase up from 24% the previous year. Silent calls are usually caused by automated dialling (dialler) systems used in call centres.
Ofcom also point out that during the same six month period that 71% of landline customers had received a live marketing call while 63% had received a recorded marketing message.
Ofcom's plan is to bring together industry, regulators and the government in addressing nuisance calls. The 5 point plan consists of the follwoing:
- New research which aims to create a clearer picture of the problems that consumers experience.
- Working with industry to identify methods of tracing those people who hide their identity
- Improve Compliance by working with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)
- Coordinated action. Ofcom has committed to a role in a coordinated effort to tackle the wider issue of nuisance calls with other regulatory bodies such as the Information Commissioners Office and Government. See the online consumer guide to tackling nuisance calls and messages
- Enforcement Action: Ofcom will continue to take enforcement action where appropriate to ensure that companies comply with the rules on silent and abandoned calls. Within the last year Ofcom have issues fines to Homeserve and npower totalling over £800,000.
- The Communications Act 2003 grants Ofcom its powers in dealing with abandoned and silent calls
- Predictive diallers is the technology used by call centres the maximise the amount of time that the call centre agents spend speaking to people. Other technology is used to detect answering machines and may mistake a call recipient for an answering machine and cut off the call without the recipient hearing anything.
- Predictive diallers are used by many types of company including telemarketing companies, market research businesses and debt collection agencies (DCA's). They work by dialling numbers automatically and upon a connection connect the call centre agent to the call.
- Live marketing calls (sales calls) are where a business is trying to sell a product or service . A recorded message marketing call is when you here a recorded message about a product or service. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has lead responsibility for enforcing the specific rules set out in the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 that are intended to prevent unsolicited live marketing calls, recorded marketing message calls and texts. The ICO recently served monetary penalties totalling £440,000 on two owners of a marketing company responsible for sending millions of unlawful spam texts over the past three years.It has also listed the ‘top ten’ worst offendersfor making unsolicited calls and is expecting these companies to address concerns about their cold-calling tactics.