Homeserve fined for abandoned calls

 

Home insurance and repairs company HomeServe has been fined £750,000 for making an excessive number of silent and abandoned calls, Ofcom said today.

HomeServe exceeded the limit on the number of abandoned calls it is allowed to make on 42 separate occasions during February 1 and March 21 last year, the communications regulator said.

This resulted in an estimated 14,756 abandoned calls being made to UK consumers during this time.

HomeServe also placed an estimated 36,218 calls in breach of a rule prohibiting companies from making repeated calls to answerphones within 24 hours, according to the watchdog.

Ofcom said its decision to fine HomeServe was "appropriate and proportionate" to reflect the seriousness of the breach and to act as a deterrent to it and other companies.

It added that it took into account steps taken by HomeServe to comply with the rules on silent and abandoned calls and its offer to compensate consumers who suffered harm from receiving the calls.

Ofcom's consumer group director Claudio Pollack said: "Our rules are there to prevent consumers suffering annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety from silent or abandoned calls.

"We hope today's fine will send a strong message to all companies that use call centres that they need to ensure they are fully compliant with the rules or face the consequences."

A HomeServe spokeswoman said: "HomeServe is reviewing the detailed determination.

"HomeServe identified the issue and promptly reported it to Ofcom following an internal audit of all of HomeServe's telemarketing operations. The problem was identified as having resulted from the incorrect use of answering machine detection (AMD) technology via an outsourcer.

"HomeServe can confirm that it no longer works with outsourcers on its outbound marketing and that AMD is no longer used in any calls made by the company.

"HomeServe can also confirm that all of its dialler systems have been fully compliant with Ofcom regulations since March 22 2011, following the rectification of the errors identified during HomeServe's audit.

"HomeServe is providing goodwill gestures of £10 to customers who received a silent, abandoned or repeat call from the referenced outsourcer over the relevant period. Anyone who believes they were subject to these over the relevant period should contact the company before May 31 2012 on 0800 389 5280 and the claim will be investigated.

"The above details will not have a material impact on HomeServe's financial results and the company's financial guidance remains consistent with the pre-close trading update of March 29."

Silent and abandoned calls from companies are usually generated by automated systems known as diallers and answering machine detection technology.

They are mainly used in call centres and connect the consumer to agents as soon as the phone is answered or disconnect calls made to answering machines.

Problems occur when the system dials more calls than agents can answer or ends an answered call by mistakenly identifying it as being picked up by an answering machine.

Communications Consumer Panel chairman Bob Warner welcomed the fine and called for continued close monitoring to stop others making silent and abandoned calls.

He said: "This is the first time that Ofcom has flexed its muscles to use the new enforcement powers. The panel has long lobbied for tougher action to protect consumers and we are now urging Ofcom to monitor closely the numbers of silent call complaints, and take further action where persistent silent calls remain a problem.

"Silent calls cause a great deal of anxiety, particularly for older people living alone. The higher fines mean that consumers should now be better protected."

Consumer Focus director of policy and external affairs Adam Scorer said: "Silent and abandoned calls are an annoyance and can often cause distress to the people who receive them.

"While they are usually caused by glitches in the technology rather than a deliberate act by sales staff, they are a nuisance and firms that do not control the technology show a lack of respect to consumers.

"All firms want to run efficient sales operations. But if finding cheaper ways of selling increases the risk of nuisance calls, then firms need to be very vigilant about the controls they put in place to manage that risk.

"We are pleased to see Ofcom take action and hope this serves as a clear warning to HomeServe and other companies to treat consumers with respect."

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power