You Cannot Afford to Stay Silent on the New Ofcom Rules

Author: Danny Singer, CEO and Founder of Noetica

On 1st March 2017 new Ofcom rules come in to effect regarding the ‘Persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service’, in an unprecedented clampdown on the five billion ‘nuisance calls’ the regulator estimates that consumers in the UK receive each year. Put simply, it could spell the end for predictive dialling and answer machine detection (AMD) currently used extensively for outbound calling. However, this does not need to be the case.

The truth is that predictive dialling and AMD can coexist with the new regulations, as part of a responsible outbound strategy.  So, what are the new rules?

New Ofcom rules on outbound calling

On the 20th December 2016, Ofcom published its long-anticipated amended policy on the Persistent Misuse of Electronic Communication Networks, which is essentially the letter of the law regulating the use of predictive dialling technology in the UK.

Under the new rules which come it to force at the beginning of March, silent calls will not be tolerated in any form. As a result, all rules surrounding AMD such as the ‘reasoned estimate’ of false positives and the ‘24-hour rule’ have vanished from the regulations.

Controversially, Ofcom is also ‘clarifying’ that what was previously known as the ‘3% rule’ (stating that dialler abandoned calls must not exceed 3% of all live calls in any 24-hour period) was never intended as a ‘safe haven’ and from March no abandon call rate (ACR) can be considered ‘safe’.  However, Ofcom has not included their previous suggestion that three abandoned calls in one day would be considered ‘persistent misuse’, which was proposed in an earlier consultation paper. Also, the document includes an annex detailing precisely how the ACR is to be calculated. It is therefore our (Noetica’s) conclusion that there is a certain tolerance towards abandoned calls, but no precise limit that can be considered safe. So, for most compliance departments, this will effectively mean zero tolerance.

It is also worth noting that within the new rules, Ofcom is stating that it will not prioritise (i.e. are less likely to pursue) organisations which ‘ensure their dialling technology is managed by competent persons’.

Generally speaking, the ambiguity of the rules has led many outbound experts to view this as an outright ban on current predictive dialling and AMD technologies, and has therefore left them scratching their heads as to how they could continue to hit their performance targets.

These concerns are exacerbated by additional recent rulings which could see the directors of offending companies being personally and criminally responsible if their organisations are found to persistently generate nuisance calls.

A new generation of smarter outbound dialling and detection

in response to the changing rules there is a new generation of technologies which allows continued use of predictive diallers and even AMD. These use a combination of new innovations which borrow from techniques used in the inbound world in conjunction with call blending technology and diallers as well as a brand new AMD technique known as ‘live person detection’ (or LPD). These new technologies have been proven in live trials to return virtually zero dropped (abandoned) call rate and zero silent calls.

The message from Ofcom is loud and clear, that there is no reason to fall on the wrong side of its new rules. However, it does not have to mean the death knell for responsible predictive dialling or AMD.