19/04/2012 08:19 BST

HomeServe Fined £750,000 By Ofcom For Excessive Silent And Abandoned Calls

Home insurance and repairs company HomeServe has been fined £750,000 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 1 February and 21 March last year, the communications regulator Ofcom said on Thursday.

This resulted in an estimated 14,756 abandoned calls being made to UK consumers during this time.

HomeServe also placed an estimated 36,218 calls in breach of a rule prohibiting companies from making repeated calls to answerphones within 24 hours, according to the watchdog.

Ofcom said its decision to fine HomeServe was "appropriate and proportionate" to reflect the seriousness of the breach and to act as a deterrent to it and other companies.

It 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."

Silent and abandoned calls from companies are usually generated by automated systems known as diallers and answering machine detection technology.

They are mainly used in call centres and connect the consumer to agents as soon as the phone is answered or disconnect calls made to answering machines.

Problems occur when the system dials more calls than agents can answer or ends an answered call by mistakenly identifying it as being picked up by an answering machine.

Communications Consumer Panel chairman Bob Warner welcomed the fine and called for continued close monitoring to stop others making silent and abandoned calls.

He said: "Silent calls cause a great deal of anxiety, particularly for older people living alone. The higher fines mean that consumers should now be better protected."