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TalkTalk hit with £750,000 ‘silent call’ fine – Ofcom investigation reveals that during a two-month period Talk Talk exceeded the ‘silent calls’ limit…

Ofcom investigation reveals that during a two-month period Talk Talk exceeded the ‘silent calls’ limit by a substantial amount and failed to keep adequate records of calls

Telecoms giant Talk Talk has been fined £750,000 for making an excessive number of abandoned and silent calls to potential customers.

Silent calls are caused by automated systems known as dialer, which are used in call centers to generate and attempt to connect calls. If there are not enough call center agents available to handle all of the successfully connected calls the person on the receiving end of the line is greeted with a silent call.

The fine, issued by telecoms regulator Ofcom, relates to silent calls made by Talk Talk during the months of February and March 2011. The firm’s activities were discovered by Ofcom later that year and it was reprimanded while an investigation took place. At the time it was threatened with a possible £2m fine.

“Silent and abandoned calls can cause annoyance and distress to consumers,” said Ofcom’s consumer group director, Claudio Pollack. “Today’s penalty sends out a strong message to organizations using call centers that they must comply or face the consequences.”

Ofcom has clear guidelines on silent and abandoned calls, whereby the abandoned call rate should be no more than 3% of live calls over a 24-hour period.

Its investigation found that during one of its telemarketing campaigns Talk Talk exceeded this limit by a substantial amount, and during a separate marketing campaign it failed to check its technology’s accuracy or to keep adequate records of calls.

Talk Talk blames the breach on two external agencies it was using to make the calls – Tele performance Limited and Mc Alpine Marketing Limited – but Ofcom concluded that the fine was still applicable as Talk Talk is responsible for the actions of these agencies.

“Talk Talk demands high standards from the companies it works with and, as a result, we immediately stopped using these suppliers,” a Talk Talk spokesperson said. “Both suppliers addressed the root cause of the problem and Talk Talk will fully recover the financial penalty imposed by Ofcom from these companies.”

The telecoms giant said it will put an end to all cold calling from the end of this month and will rely instead on advertising and “word of mouth” to attract customers.

The fine is part of a wider crackdown on silent and abandoned calls by the regulator. To date it has fined 12 companies, including home insurance and repairs company Home Serve, which was fined £750,000 last year and offered £10 compensation to those it has targeted.