The issue of nuisance phone calls has received a good deal of press recently. There is legislation in place to fine companies that cross the line. There are also calls to strengthen that legislation and use it more frequently. One company that has dispensed with the practice is Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) which was actually fined £10.5m for incorrect practices.
The Energy Debate is equally getting plenty of coverage because of the regular price increases that the major companies seem to announce as the cold weather of winter approaches. There is plenty of competition in the sector so the decision of SSE is quite significant. The telephone has been the main way that companies can reach the consumer directly. The move comes two years after the company stopped cold calling by simply knocking on the door.
SSE has maintained a telesales operation but its revised policy is that the only people who will receive a call are those who have ticked a box to agree to receive calls, or those who are existing customers. It has 9.5m customers and only a very small fraction has been recruited by telesales so perhaps the change of policy will have little impact on the business.
There are few signs that their major competition will follow suit but it provides some good publicity in the face of Which? Consumer Magazine leading a campaign against cold calls. The magazine highlights the huge number of people who are receiving unsolicited cold calls. It is not just a matter of a single occasional call. People are reporting regular and persistent calls that are becoming increasingly irritating.
The magazine is not the only one calling for change. The Citizens Advice Bureau and parliamentarians are joining the call for more to be done to protect the consumer.
Consumers of course can take matters into their own hands by getting a system that prevents unwanted calls getting through to them. They may opt for Caller ID or have an ex directory number so that their details will not be on the desks of cold calling salesmen. These things are fine but it is possible to go a stage further by looking at websites such as http://www.grouputilities.com/ that offer a more sophisticated way to ensure that family and friends get through and unwanted calls are blocked.
Call Centres have the technology to have automatic redialling so that they can repeatedly call time and again until someone finally answers the phone. Often there are not enough personnel in the centre to actually talk when the receiver is lifted. Fortunately, there is the technology to protect the consumer as well. This technology can block the nuisance that companies are creating; a nuisance that SSE has decided is not worth the effort and bad publicity.