Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barclays, silent calling & we've been here before...

So Barclays, or at least Barclaycard, have just been fined the maximum Ofcom (the UK communications regulator) can manage for making silent outbound calls. The story is well covered here on Finextra.

What is perhaps more surprising is that the maximum fine is £50,000 and that even in a credit crunch this is not going to inconvenience Barclays hugely. There is the argument of reputational damage being a punishment and the media have done well highlighting the story (see "Regulators stuck in a fine mess" in the Times today, for example for really hostile coverage of Barclays) or BBC Business News leading with the story on the day the fine was announced.

Unfortunately I don't believe that reputational risk alone is enough. Finextra mentions that Abbey National, Complete Credit Management and Carphone Warehouse have all been fined for breaching the silent calls rule and that's just for starters. The frequency of these stories of outbound calling making life painful for consumers and damaging brand suggests that reputational risk isn't working.

In July I wrote about the BBC highlighting the use outbound calling by UK banks for debt recovery ("Banks criticised by BBC for automated calls "). It might be an effective way of collecting debt (I've got no evidence one way or the other) but even if it does little for your reputation, the impact of the fine seems low compared to the potential value of a recovered debt.

I've blogged a lot on outbound as it's the area that makes people most aware of and most dislike call centres. As a result, I suspect that outbound calling in the UK is an industry that will soon be dead. The details are in posts like: "Abbey National fined £30,000 by Ofcom & the future of Outbound in Financial Services" or "Outbound, an explanation of the technology" and "Outbound - industry reputation, branding and regulation", but from the feedback I've had, the irritation outbound causes is still not well understood in the industry and the industry is not adapting.

This may though be irrelevant as the number of consumers registering with the Telephone Preference Service suggests that consumers are making their views clear and are making themselves increasingly difficult to reach.

1 comment:

Mia said...

Many people are losing their job. However, rules are bound to be followed for good because it causes inconvenience for the public.