Ofcom bans Answer Machine Detection


Ofcom has effectively banned Answer Machine Detection (AMD) for outbound diallers.

They have said in public on several occasions that they believe AMD to be the major cause of silent calls in the UK.

This has been clarified in a recent statement: “…Ofcom recognises that at present, and until accuracy rates improve, it will be very difficult to use AMD technology without breaching the three per cent guideline. We consider this is proportionate, a least for the present, in light of the risk of anxiety caused to consumers from AMD false positives and that it may in fact act as an incentive for improved accuracy rates which should minimise the risk of possible consumer detriment.”

The statement goes on to say that any contact centre using AMD must factor in a “reasoned estimate” of AMD false positives.

In response, some dialler vendors are recommending that Answer Machine Detection should not be used when performing predictive dialling in the UK.

“The major point is that Answer Machine Detection is just not accurate enough,” said Carl Adkins, Managing Director of Infinity CCS.  “The original diallers originated in the United States where analogue lines and whirring tape answer machines were common. That just isn’t the case in the UK and never has been! The vendors have FAILED to prove that they can accurately detect an answer machine quickly enough.”

Ofcom has also published advice for consumers who are victims of silent calls and slamming as well as releasing new guidance on what to do if consumers have complaints about services from their communications providers.

More consumers are contacting Ofcom about fixed line mis-selling and silent calls than any other telecoms issue.  From September 2007 to September 2008 the number of consumer complaints about silent calls received by Ofcom has increased from around 300 to around 1,050 per month.

Silent calls

The majority of silent calls are caused by automated calling systems known as diallers. Diallers are mainly used in call centres to generate and attempt to connect calls. If there are not enough call centre agents available to handle all of the calls which are connected to a live individual, the recipient may receive an abandoned call. If the call centre does not play an information message in the event of an abandoned call, a silent call may result.

Ofcom has opened a programme of monitoring and enforcing compliance with guidelines which relate in part to reducing the harm which can be caused by silent and abandoned calls. As part of this programme, Ofcom has recently taken enforcement action against Abbey National plc, Barclaycard, Complete Credit Management Ltd, Equidebt Ltd and Ultimate Credit Services Ltd.

Published On: 10th Dec 2008 - Last modified: 2nd Nov 2017
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3 Comments
  1. There are systems that can completely avoid silent calls. Some IVM system assume that every answered call is connected to a person rather than a machine, and begins a scripted conversation. This makes it impossible for a silent call to be made. However, if an answering machine is then detected in the course of the dialogue, a specified message can be left on the machine.

    John Turtle 16 Dec at 9:26 am
  2. Nonsense. There are plenty of dialler systems that can handle the 3% ABA of Live calls.

    Stupid headline writer.

    kowalski 2 Feb at 4:34 pm
  3. As a predictive dialler company, We agree with the last comment. AMD can be effective if programmed in the right way, even with taking into account the false positives which Ofcom stipulate regarding AMD. I agree that American predictive dialler software platforms used here in the UK are not very accurate at all and result in a high percentage of silent calls, however if you have the right technology and signalling techniques then you can easily remain compliant and receive a greater percentage of live calls.

    Shahid Ahmed 5 Sep at 3:42 pm
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