Over-50s specialist made 148 abandoned calls, Ofcom investigation finds

Ageas Retail has been fined £10,000 by Ofcom for making abandoned calls to customers.

An abandoned phone call occurs when a consumer picks up the receiver, but there is no one on the other end of the line.

The Ofcom investigation into Ageas found that the company made 148 abandoned calls to UK consumers over three separate days during a seven-week period between 21 July and 7 September 2013.

In doing so, Ageas was found to be in breach of legislation relating to ‘persistent misuse of a telephone network or service’, although Ofcom said the degree of seriousness and harm to consumers was at the lower end of the scale.

Ofcom said the £10,000 fine reflected that lower level of seriousness and also the company’s offer of a £10 shopping voucher to affected consumers and the steps it has since taken to bring itself into compliance.

The fine is payable to Ofcom and passed on to HM Treasury. Ageas is required to pay it within 30 days of receiving the penalty notification.

Abandoned calls can be caused by automated calling systems that organisations use to maximise the amount of time their calling agents spend speaking to consumers. These systems are mainly used in call centres to dial telephone numbers automatically and connect people to call centre agents as soon as the phone is answered.

Problems may occur, however, if the dialler makes a call but there is no call centre agent on hand to deal with it, leading to an abandoned call.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s consumer and content group director, said: “The law is there to protect consumers from suffering annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, including from abandoned calls.

“Organisations using call centres must comply with the law or face the consequences. Where we find breaches, even at the lower end of the scale, we can take action.”

An Ageas spokeswoman said it took immediate action as soon as it became aware of an issue with its call system and took “all necessary and appropriate steps to limit any recurrences”.

“As part of that work, we have also improved our oversight of the telephone operating system and we responded to Ofcom in a timely and positive manner.

“We have a strong track record in dealing sensitively and professionally with consumers and we are confident that the increased controls that we have put in place and notified to Ofcom will ensure we continue to provide our desired high level of customer service.”