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Complaining about customer service Miscellaneous telecoms

Preventing and complaining about nuisance calls and Ofcom’s record fine

Ofcom fines companies

Record fine for firm behind nearly 100 million nuisance calls

A company behind 99.5million nuisance calls has been fined a record £400,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Keurboom Communications Ltd, a company behind 99.5 million nuisance calls has been issued the ICO’s highest ever nuisance calls fine after more than 1,000 people complained about recorded (also known as automated – calls). £400,000

The calls, made over an 18 month period, related to a wide range of subjects including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, sometimes on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

Companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have their specific consent. Keurboom did not have consent so was in breach of the law.

Steve Eckerlsey, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said: “Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100million calls. “The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.”

During the investigation, the ICO issued seven information notices ordering the company, which is registered in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, to provide information to the regulator. When it failed to comply, Keurboom Communications Ltd and its director, Gregory Rudd, were prosecuted and fined at Luton Magistrates’ Court in April 2016.

Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom Communications Ltd has been placed in voluntary liquidation. The ICO is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened when the government introduces a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms. Making directors responsible will stop them avoiding fines by putting their company into liquidation.

In 2016/17, the ICO had its busiest year for nuisance calls issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923 million for nuisance marketing.

The previous record nuisance call fine was in February 2016, when the ICO fined Prodial, a lead generation company, £350,000 for making 46 million nuisance calls.

So what can you do to prevent and deal with nuisance calls?

Sign up for TPS. The Telephone Preference Service. You can register both your landline and mobile numbers. It doesn’t stop them all but it certainly reduces it. As for the ones it doesn’t stop, report them. It is the law that companies must check names and numbers against the TPS register so they are breaking the law if you are registered and they contact you. Allow 28 days for it to be all registered. TPS is not able to enforce the law or fine, but does pass the information onto the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

If you have consented to receive marketing calls then you will still get these even if you are registered with TPS. Watch out for comparison and other sites and make sure that box is unchecked for wanting marketing emails.

For silent and abandoned calls, (frequently caused by automated systems dropping calls as soon as one is answered) contact Ofcom. Abandoned calls are where you hear a recorded message and there is a standard form online to report these calls. Ofcom won’t take action on individual complaints, however, once it gets a large number regarding the same company it will take action. In 2013 it fined Talk Talk £750,000 for an excessive number of silent and abandoned calls. So report these kinds of calls. The form is simple
and quick to fill out.

For unwanted marketing calls, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In May 2011 it was given powers to impose a fine up to £500,000 on companies who break the rules on unsolicited texts and phone calls.

Categories
Companies customer service Laws

Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively

phoneWriting v ‘phoning complaints

 

 

As many of you who follow this blog know, I always advocate putting your complaints in writing as one my Top Tips for effective complaining. You have:

  • evidence that you contacted the company,
  • you can take your time to think about what you want to say,
  • you can bullet point your issues,
  • you can take out emotion,
  • you can go back to it and rewrite until you are happy to send it and
  • you have evidence of what they have or have not said to you (and that makes it hard for a retailer/service provider to deny and certainly going to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court is made a lot easier with proof!) I had many appendices when I took Tesco to court!
  • Writing means you aren’t left on the ‘phone waiting to get through to people at call centres where a lot of other issues come into play too!
  • Many people who ask me for help with complaints have struggled because they have been phoning and not writing and don’t have a trail.

Recording calls & the law

I often hear people saying that  they can record calls and that they will take this to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court. Be careful here of what you can do! The interception, recording and monitoring of telephone calls is governed by a number of different pieces of UK legislation. It all points to it may be it may not! The guidance you get may be after you have made the call when it is too late.

  • The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has no guidance on its website but when I emailed them to ask for guidance I was told:
    “Admittance of any type of evidence in a court case is decided based on the rules of the court. So whether any call recordings (either recorded for personal use or by a company when they have informed you they are recording calls) can be used in court is entirely up to the judge on a case by case basis. If you are going to court then it would be advisable to speak to your solicitor about it or if you are representing yourself then the court clerk may be able to advise you.”
  • The Justice department, (Your rights and the law)  said it could not provide legal advice.
  • Ofcom give this guidance on recording calls. This says that you can record calls for your own use and if you want to use to share with a third party (such as ADR or SCC) you must ask the person you are calling for their consent. This could be refused in which case you will not be able to use. However, when emailed to give more guidance on whether ‘phone calls can be used in court Ofcom said “I’m afraid we’re not able to give guidance on his matter.”

Therefore, think carefully before ringing as you may not have the evidence you need should you need to take the matter further. I also think that the difficulties of proving what was said in phone calls is a reason that many companies make it so difficult to email! Don’t be beaten because you can always email the CEO – find the address of any CEO here.

Although you should be careful of recording the call, if the company has said it is recording the call for purposes such as training you should be able to get a copy. You can make a Subject Access Request. The company must give you a copy of everything they have to do with you. They must do this for free, The company can only charge a fee to cover administrative costs if the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive. That is unlikely in most cases, particularly as part of a complaint.

Tips if you have to ‘phone to complain

However, sometimes you need to ‘phone as it is urgent. What do you need to bear in mind?

  • Write down exactly what you want to say before you pick up the ‘phone, which will mean that you are prepared.
  • Take a note of the date and time you started and finished the call
  • Be polite, if you aren’t you risk the customer services representative refusing to speak to you
  • Ensure you get the name of the person to whom you are talking, first and second name
  • Quote relevant Acts where necessary. If you are not receiving services undertaken with reasonable skill and care and that includes over the ‘phone, then say that they are in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Ask the person to whom you are talking to put what has been agreed in writing preferably by email and whilst you are on the ‘phone.
  • Read this post about call centres!

But you CAN still write to complain… we have a weapon…

You can write the CEO. Find the details at https://ceoemail.com/. You won’t usually get a personal reply, but you will get one from the Executive team. You can add into the email complaint how appalling it is that in this day and age they make it so difficult to contact them!

Then there is social media, more on that here.

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

See 20 Top Tips on How to complain effectively and for loads more advice, tips, information, guidance, examples of complaining effectively and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

101 Habits if an Effective complainer book cover with logo

 

101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purchase downloadable templates to gain redress