HomeServe Fined £750,000 Over Silent Calls
Emergency home insurance and repairs company HomeServe has been fined £750,000 by Ofcom for making an excessive number of silent and abandoned calls.
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.
Ofcom said the HomeServe, which calls itself "the fifth emergency service", also placed an estimated 36,218 calls in breach of a rule prohibiting companies from making repeated calls to answerphones within 24 hours.
It is the latest problem to hit the company, which is still in talks with the Financial Services Authority over its marketing practices.
Homeserve has seen its sales and shares slide ever since it temporarily suspended sales activity last year following a probe into mis-selling.
In February this led to the company slashing 200 jobs.
The watchdog said its decision to fine HomeServe was "appropriate and proportionate", reflecting the seriousness of the breach and it would act as a deterrent to it and other companies.
The watchdog 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 the problem had occurred as a result of incorrect use of answering machine detection (AMD) technology via an outsourcer that it no longer used.
All of the company's dialler systems have been fully compliant with Ofcom regulations since March 22 last year, she added.
HomeServe said it is providing "goodwill gestures" of £10 to customers who received a silent, abandoned or repeat call over the relevant period.
Consumer groups welcomed Ofcom's fine.
Communications Consumer Panel chairman Bob Warner said: "Silent calls cause a great deal of anxiety, particularly for older people living alone."
Consumer Focus director of policy and external affairs Adam Scorer added: "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."