By Daniel Hunter

As Talk Talk was slapped with a fine worth three quarters of a million pounds today (Thursday) — for its outsourced contact centres making 9,000 silent calls to consumers in less than two months — Aspect’s Dave Ogden welcomed the weight of the regulator’s boot, as rogue companies continue to exploit the technology 'designed to stop distressing practices in the first place'.

Ofcom has increasingly flexed its regulatory muscles in the last 12 months, since it imposed the first fine to a company for breaking its 2010 revised rules on silent and abandoned calls from the contact centre exactly one year ago this Saturday, charging Homeserve with £750,000 for making 36,000 calls that breached regulations, including 15,000 silent calls.

Ogden is Senior Solutions Consultant at contact centre software company Aspect.

“In this instance outsourcers are responsible, but the bulk of companies do actually do it right; it’s the odd one which isn’t playing by the rules," he said.

“Like many companies, Talk Talk did not effectively audit its outsourcer’s practices, leaving them with a hefty financial burden on their behalf. The firms blatantly abused contact centre technology — stated as answering machine detection — that in fact is designed to stop distressing practices in the first place.

“This won’t be the last incident - there are many other companies treading water at the moment. The maximum fine that Ofcom can levy is £2 million, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens very soon.

“Let me be clear — this has ended up costing them more in the long run. Using the tools and resources in the way that they are intended will reduce costs but also encourage even more prospects to convert to customers, because they are targeting the right people at the right time.

“We do need even tougher regulation. This is evident by many of the more recent complaints coming in as a result of activity from young and inexperienced companies exploiting loopholes, which the media reports as being PPI claims firms and their ilk.

“The challenge is to maintain compliance with the regulations and ensure contact centre productivity. Simple steps such as establishing internal standards for compliance, system testing and evaluation of call detail records will immediately identify whether there is a problem.

"This goes for those that employ outsourcers too — this latest news just demonstrates how important it is to thoroughly police how outsourcers are selected, as they are acting on behalf of the brand.”

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