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

Thursday, April 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.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil says:

    BT should removed withheld number and should be identify the caller from any third party marketing only. Otherwise how would we know who had called us ?

    1. Avatar TheFacts says:

      Why just BT?

    2. Avatar Kyle says:

      Only today, I had an unsolicited call from a Cheltenham number, yet ended up speaking to a nutter from India that was persistent about finishing her speech and wouldn’t accept that her call was unsolicited. She just wanted to give me ‘informations’.

      The fact is, these companies are wise to anonymous call reject and use geographic numbers to conduct their junk calls, so something more fundamental needs to be done. Regardless of whether the number is displayed on CLI, you still have to get up and check when the phone rings, so can’t see what removing the ability to withold ones number would actually achieve.

  2. Avatar telephone engineer says:

    Answer is to purchase bt 6500 phones which can block unwanted calls, reject those not on your vip list and otgr such goodies. Is on their website and argos catalogue. Have to change all handsets though as other phones will still ring.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      I think there’s also something called “TrueCall” which intercepts the inbound call and acts like a personal assistant asking “Who’s calling?” and if you tell it you don’t want to speak to them it passes that message on word-for-word and tells them not to call you again, and can block subsequent calls. This may have been the device that was on Dragons’ Den once.

  3. Avatar Bob says:

    The situation with these calls is just out of control. Neither OFCOM or the TPS are interested, nearly all withhold their number or use overseas call centres or use out of area numbers to pretend they are overseas

    The answer is to stop companies and the government etc withholding their number, even the police withhold their number. To prevent companies then trying to use residential numbers a modification may be needed to the number withheld function for these numbers. It could pass a number but not the real number, The TPS or OFCOM could manage this so if it was used for Sales calls etc OFCOM could take action against the owner of that number

  4. Avatar Sledgehammer says:

    How many people that use only mobile telephones get silent or pita calls?

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      One noticeable aspect of not having a physical landline is that the junk calls *almost* stop completely, as do the ones from debt collection agencies chasing someone who had that same circuit number years ago.

      The only ones I ever get to my mobile are ones selling PPI (just recently), if I don’t recognise the inbound number and I’m in front of my PC I just tap the number in and it will tell me who it is while it’s ringing, then I proceed to add to the “SPAM” list on the handset. I think you can also get an app which does something like that – a database lookup and a display of who it “probably” is.

      If the inbound caller ID is withheld I simply ignore the call altogether.

      I have had “silent calls” to it occasionally, if nobody speaks then the number goes in the same “SPAM” list and I’ll have no idea who it was, nor will they be able to contact me again by phone.

  5. Avatar Timeless says:

    ugh, for me its not so much silent calls its calls from companies offering PPI, stupidly we took up one a few years back who now keeps on phoning demanding payments despite us paying them back bit by bit.

    as for indian call centres, our previous bank passed our details over to debt management company called apex after our previous employer shafted us, well long story short they also demanded payment and despite us telling them we had no money this indian sounding man said he would send someone round to break our legs if we didnt.. neither the police, TPS or Ofcom did anything about our complaint despite having a recording supposedly due to the fact we should have informed the call centre or something.

    regardless, we are still waiting on this indian guy to send goons lol, and herefordshire police are still just as redundant as they were when we were being harassed by our ex-employer.

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