November 21, 2023
Auto dialing, also known as automated calling or dialer technology, is widely used for outbound sales and telemarketing campaigns. However, in the UK, it is important to adhere to the regulations set by Ofcom, the industry regulator in the United Kingdom, to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.
In this blog, we will provide a concise overview of Ofcom's rules for auto dialing.
Silent calls occur when someone answers the phone but hears silence on the other end. This could be caused by calls being abandoned or connected but an agent does not speak, or is on mute. Ofcom has regulations in place to address these issues and prevent consumer annoyance.
Silent Calls: Ofcom's regulations state that the target for dropped calls (abandoned calls) should be 0%, not the previously misunderstood 3%. Despite Ofcom’s clarification, many people in the industry still think the 3% rule applies – and some even run their diallers with 3% in mind. Some suppliers of dialer solutions even promote the fact they are (falsely) compliant by ensuring a 3% maximum rate.
Drop Call Calculation: To accurately calculate the drop call rate, use the formula:
Drop rate = Drops / (Drops + Connects). It is essential to calculate the drop call rate correctly and avoid artificially reducing it by including inbound and manual dial connects.
15-Second Minimum Ring Time: To prevent the practice of "pinging," where dialers ring a number for a very short time to generate missed calls, Ofcom requires a minimum ring time of 15 seconds before disconnecting as a no answer.
Auto dialers can increase the risk of silent calls due to various factors.
False Positives: Auto dialers use technology like Answering Machine Detection (AMD) to determine whether a call is answered by a live person or an answering machine. However, these systems are not always accurate and can mistakenly classify a live person as an answering machine. When this happens, the call may be disconnected without any message being played, resulting in a silent call.
Abandoned Calls: Auto dialers are designed to make a large number of calls simultaneously, often more than the available agents can handle. If there are not enough agents available to take the calls, some calls may be abandoned, meaning they are dropped without any message being played. These abandoned calls can also result in silent calls when the recipient answers but hears silence on the other end.
Insufficient Agent Availability: Auto dialers aim to connect calls to available agents as quickly as possible. However, if there is a delay in connecting the call to an agent, the recipient may experience silence before the agent starts speaking. This can give the impression of a silent call, even though it is a result of delayed agent availability.
Technical Issues: Auto dialers rely on complex technology and systems to manage and route calls. Technical issues such as network congestion, system glitches, or equipment malfunctions can occur, leading to silent calls. These issues may prevent the call from being properly connected to an agent or result in dropped calls without any message being played.
Many softphone diallers have built algorithms and processes to help prevent silent calls when auto-dialing. However these solution’s aren't perfect, and still run the risk of creeping over that 0% threshold set by Ofcom.
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The Calling Line ID (CLI) is the telephone number displayed to the recipient when making outbound calls. Ofcom has regulations regarding the use of CLI to ensure transparency and prevent misuse.
CLI Configuration: It is recommended that the CLI to be presented, is a valid telephone number that customers can return calls to and have them answered by one of your agents. Premium rate or chargeable numbers should not be used, and rapid rotation of CLIs to avoid anti-SPAM measures is discouraged.
Rotating CLI: While automatic rotation of CLI numbers is no longer allowed, there are exceptions for valid reasons, such as presenting local numbers for a well-established business with branches in different locations.
Answering Machine Detection (AMD) technology plays a role in identifying whether a call is answered by a live person or an answering machine. However, its use needs to be carefully considered to avoid silent calls and false positives.
AMD Use: Ofcom does not ban the use of AMD but emphasizes the importance of considering false positive rates. Poor AMD systems can lead to silent calls when live calls are incorrectly classified as answering machines.
Two-Second CPA Rule: The Call Progress Analysis (CPA) component of AMD is given two seconds to determine whether the called party is an answering machine or a live person. Systems that hold onto calls longer than two seconds are non-compliant.
Leaving Messages: To prevent silent calls, it is recommended to leave an answerphone message when a call is answered by an answering machine. This ensures that false positives do not result in silent calls.
In addition to the above, there are several other important regulations set by Ofcom for auto dialing:
Harassment: The definition of "harassment" is not clearly defined and is open to interpretation. Contact centers should exercise common sense and modify their strategies accordingly.
Maximum Attempts to a User: The regulations do not define the maximum number of attempts to a user, and clarification is needed in this regard.
Do Not Call (DNC) List: While not explicitly mentioned in the regulations, having a DNC list is considered good practice. Contact centers should provide a way for individuals to remove themselves from calling lists, such as through self-service IVRs.
Telephone Preference Service (TPS): Checking the TPS is crucial to ensure compliance with regulations. The ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) enforces TPS regulations, and non-compliance can result in fines.
It is important to note that this blog provides a summary of Ofcom's rules for auto dialing and should not be considered as legal advice. For complete and up-to-date information, it is recommended to refer to the official Ofcom regulations and consult with legal professionals.