Insurance firm fined £10,000 for nuisance calls as Ofcom launches consultation

old man on phoneNo-one likes insurance companies. Not even their mothers. So how can insurance companies make themselves even more odious? By engaging in the severely-frowned-upon practice of making abandoned or ‘ghost’ calls to older adults, that’s how.

Specialist over-50s* insurer Ageas was investigated by telecoms regulator OfCom who found that they made 148 abandoned calls over three separate days during a seven-week period of investigation. This breached the maximum of 3% of all calls made and the company was fined £10,000 for their misdemeanors. That’s almost £70 per wasted call.

Nevertheless, Ofcom considers this to be a small fine, as it considered the “degree of seriousness and harm to consumers was at the lower end of the scale.” Ageas was found to have been in breach of legislation relating to “persistent misuse of a telephone network or service.” The fine also reflects the company’s offer of a £10 shopping voucher to affected consumers and the steps it has taken to bring itself into compliance. Presumably by ceasing and desisting.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, said: “The law is there to protect consumers from suffering annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, including from abandoned calls."

“Organisations using call centres must comply with the law or face the consequences. Where we find breaches, even at the lower end of the scale, we can take action” he finished.

However, Ofcom itself is not finished, as it has also announced a review of its ‘persistent misuse’ policy.

The existing policy identifies silent and abandoned calls as two examples of misuse, although we are sure that Bitterwallet readers could come up with many more examples. Ofcom’s policy also describes steps organisations can take to avoid making them and how to reduce consumer harm where they do occur.

However, Ofcom want to know if this could be better and is asking for initial views on what, if any, changes could be made to:

help make enforcement more efficient and effective;

reflect technological developments or other changes in the call centre industry; or

clarify the policy to make it easier for companies to understand and follow. We don’t think “stop bothering people” is particularly hard to understand, but perhaps you have some simple suggestions on how to reinforce this message. To idiots.

Responses need to be submitted to Ofcom by 7 November 2014.

*that’s older than I am

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