Fancy a free £10 from HomeServe?
You all know and love HomeServe, that helpful home emergency insurance service? Well, it turns out that they are so desperate for your custom that they have been badgering poor unsuspecting households with silent and abandoned phone calls in breach of Ofcom rules. And Ofcom have actually done something about it.
Ofcom have announced that, owing to numerous ‘accidental’ rule breaks, Homeserve is being fined a fairly substantial £750,000. Prior to September 2010 the maximum fine that could be imposed was a measly £50k, and this is the first fine levied since the new rules were introduced. The penalty might even have been higher if Ofcom hadn’t taken into account the steps taken by HomeServe to bring itself into compliance with the rules on silent and abandoned calls, and its offer to compensate consumers who suffered harm from receiving silent and abandoned calls as a result of its breach of the rules.
HomeServe’s misdemeanours include breaking the rule that states that there is a limit on the number of abandoned calls that companies are permitted to make to consumers. Ofcom’s investigation into HomeServe found that the company exceeded this abandoned call rate on 42 separate occasions during the period 1 February and 21 March 2011. This resulted in an estimated 14,756 abandoned calls being made to consumers.
Ofcom rules also prohibit companies from making repeat calls to specific numbers within the same 24 hour period, where a call has been identified by AMD technology as having been picked up by an answer machine. Ofcom found that HomeServe made estimated 36,218 calls in breach of this rule.
Adam Scorer, Director of Policy and External Affairs at Consumer Focus 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,” he finished, Aretha Franklin style.
Tsk tsk. And while we like naughty companies getting fined, we prefer naughty companies who get fined and who offer compensation to customers. And that’s where the free £10 comes in.
HomeServe has established a dedicated helpline for consumers seeking compensation if they have been affected by silent or abandoned calls made by the company between between 1 February 2011 and 21 March 2011. The phone number is 0800 389 5280 and potential claimants should call before 31 May 2012. HomeServe will offer £10 to claimants where their telephone number matches HomeServe’s records of those contacted while they were using the AMD technology that caused the 'glitch'. Further information on how to make a claim can be found on the HomeServe website. Calls are even answered by an actual human being, who will check your details against their records, and you could earn £10 for simply making a free phone call. Although HomeServe was established in the South Staffordshire Water area, customers in all areas may be affected.
However, if you have already registered on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), you will probably not be in for a quick tenner. If you aren’t on the TPS, which prevents you from receiving this type of call, but would like to be, you can either contact sign up directly on the web, or Consumer Focus offer a free Stayprivate.org service, which opts you out of the TPS, Mailing Preference Service (MPS), MPS consumer, Baby MPS and Fax MPS.
If you do get some free money, let us know. Or don't.