Nuisance calls are silent but potentially deadly

Companies that use telemarketing in their marketing mix were given a jolt this week after the Government upped the maximum penalty for so-called “silent calls” from £50,000 to £2m.

Russell Parsons
Russell Parsons

Silent calls or, as they more pointedly referred to, nuisance calls happen when a company’s automated calling systems dials more numbers than there is staff available to answer the phone.

Kevin Brennan, minister for consumer affairs, left companies in no doubt that untargeted telemarketing strategies will be punished.

“Consumers can be assured that the new fines are definitely more than a slap across the wrist for persistent offenders”, he ominously declared.

It is hoped that higher fines will provide a greater deterrent and Ofcom with more power to punish companies that ignore the guidelines in this area.

If the threat of a £2m fine does not panic companies into crisis meetings with their telecoms consultants to discuss how their dialling systems can be better managed, then the less quantifiable spectre of damaged brand reputation should inspire them into action.

Telecoms broadcaster Ofcom received 6,500 calls last year from irate customers that had been the victims of silent calls. It is a fair bet that there are thousands more that have been irked but rather than complaining to the regulator have registered their displeasure with their friends and or fellow customers – an infinitely more damaging prospect.

I am sure telemarketers are doing all they can to improve targeting, and warnings such as this, should serve to remind them that they need to continue to strive for better still. Fines aside, to be ruled against in the court of public opinion is a rather more punitive punishment.

As Brennan adds “I hope our decision will be a catalyst for better business practice, increasing customer loyalty and reducing operational costs for handling complaints.”

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