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Ofcom threatens firm over cold calling

Kitchens Direct has been slapped with an official warning from communications regulator Ofcom over the high number of silent phone calls it is making. Owner MKD Holdings must now reduce the level of calls or face a fine.30 Apr 2005

Silent calls are caused by the computerised dialling equipment that is common in telesales. The equipment often dials more numbers than there are call centre operators available – in the expectation that some of the people being called will not be home. This can leave recipients without an operator on the end of the line, resulting in a "silent call", which is annoying at best, but sometimes distressing.

Ofcom appears to tolerate silent calls in moderation; but if they occur too frequently, the practice is deemed by the regulator to be a "persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or electronic communications services in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety."

And this is a breach of the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom is empowered to require that any offender remedy such a breach, or face a financial penalty.

Ofcom began investigating Kitchens Direct and its owner MKD Holdings in January 2004, concluding in the summer that the company was making silent calls at an excessive level.

It ordered MKD Holdings to reduce the level of silent calls to a daily drop rate (proportion of silent calls to live calls) of 5% for each outgoing number used by the firm for telemarketing. It also ordered the company to produce reports on its performance.

The regulator was not happy with the results of those reports and began another investigation in December 2004. As a result of this the regulator has given a final warning to MKD Holdings – officially known as a Section 128 Notification.

The company now has to reduce the level of silent calls to a drop rate of 5% for each outgoing number used by 31st May or face a fine of £5,000.

Consumers and businesses can reduce the volume of cold calls they receive by registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). Registration is free and can be done via the link below.

Direct marketing firms have a legal obligation to check and comply with the TPS before calling and failure to do so can result in enforcement action by the Information Commissioner.

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