Regulator cautions companies over cold calling

A major energy company and a home maintenance business have been accused by the communications regulator of plaguing households with annoying cold calls.

Ofcom said nPower and HomeServe used automatic calling systems to dial numbers, only to leave the line silent, hang up or leave marketing messages.

The regulator has told both companies it believes they “persistently misused an electronic communications network” after carrying out its own investigations.

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They have been given until August 10 to respond to the allegations “and to take steps to cease the misuse identified”, or they could face fines of up to £2m, Ofcom said.

Both companies allegedly made “an excessive number of abandoned calls” when they were investigated between February 1 and March 21 this year.

nPower is also accused of leaving recorded marketing messages in the event of an abandoned call while HomeServe allegedly “made one or more repeat calls to specific numbers within 24 hours when a call had been identified by answer machine detection equipment as being picked up by an answer machine”.

Ofcom served the notifications under the Communications Act 2003 after the firms were investigated for “causing annoyance to consumers through the making of silent or abandoned calls”.

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An nPower spokesman said: “Our average abandon rate has been consistently below the regulatory 3 per cent.

“Ofcom’s concerns relate to individual non-consecutive days in which the rate exceeded this level.

“We believe that our prompt to make energy savings is fully consistent with energy policy and does not constitute marketing.”

A HomeServe spokeswoman said: “The problem resulted from the use of answering machine detection (AMD) technology, and was remedied immediately upon discovery.

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“HomeServe takes the Ofcom regulations very seriously and as a result, AMD is no longer used on any HomeServe outbound calls, whether they originate in our own or in outsourced call centres.”

The firm has reviewed its internal controls, she added, before confirming that all systems now met Ofcom regulations.

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