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UPDATE Ofcom Fine UK ISP TalkTalk £750k for Abandoned and Silent Calls

Thursday, Apr 18th, 2013 (10:29 am) - Score 1,106

Budget ISP TalkTalk has once again got itself into hot water with the national communications regulator, Ofcom, which has today fined the provider £750,000 for making an “excessive number” of abandoned and silent calls to potential customers during 2011.

Ofcom first launched an investigation into the problem during October 2011 (here) after it received a number of complaints. At the time the regulator said it had “reasonable grounds for believing that … Talktalk persistently misused an electronic communications network“. The ISP promptly confessed to the problem and blamed it on a couple of rogue call centres (Teleperformance Ltd. and McAlpine Marketing Ltd.).

A Spokesperson for TalkTalk said in 2011:

[TalkTalk] demands high standards from the companies it works with and closely monitors their performance. In February and March 2011 a company who were completing a notice period with us did not always meet these standards and were responsible for abandoned marketing calls being made.

A sales agency working for our business-to-business division has also been found to make excessive abandoned calls. Talktalk no longer works with these sales agencies and, if Ofcom imposes a financial penalty, we will recover this sum from the third party responsible.”

Unfortunately for the ISP Ofcom had already introduced new rules to “clamp down on silent calls” by placing restrictions upon the use of automated dialling equipment (AMD) and companies that breach those rules could face enforcement action (e.g. fines of up to £2 million). TalkTalk is ultimately responsible for the actions of the two call centre operators associated with the breach.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said:

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. Today’s penalty sends out a strong message to organisations using call centres that they must comply or face the consequences.”

Ofcom’s investigation found that, during one of its telemarketing campaigns, TalkTalk exceeded the regulators limits by a “substantial amount” on four separate occasions between 1st February and 21st March 2011. TalkTalk also failed to ensure that information messages were played, meaning that consumers received silent calls. During this period the ISP ended up making approximately 9,000 silent and abandoned calls to consumers.

The regulator also aims to prevent repeat silent calls (i.e. AMD kit often redials a number if it detects an answer machine) and Ofcom requires that any repeat calls only be made if “a call centre agent is guaranteed to be able to handle the call“, although TalkTalk failed to abide by this policy on one of the days.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

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.”

TalkTalk has now been given 30 days to pay the fine to Ofcom, which will then be passed on to HM Treasury.

UPDATE 10:55am

Added a new comment from TalkTalk above.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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