I'm working in San Diego this week, but over the weekend I was sent an interesting story.
The BBC Radio Money Box program has been investigating the use of automated outbound calling by UK banks to chase bad debts.
Some consumers claim that this had led to them receiving up to eight calls a day and Privacy International is arguing that this potentially constitutes harrassment. I can see how this is especially frustrating if the calls are chasing a family member no longer
resident at that address.
Lloyds TSB, Natwest/ Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland all use these systems to some degree but say they would not call that often. They say they follow the guidelines laid down by
Ofcom, the UK communications regulator and (in the example of Lloyds TSB) they would not expect to call more than perhaps four times and not for more than four days in a row.
To me, this just seems another case of the bank's shooting themselves in the foot. I wrote about the ineffectiveness and decline of outbound calling last week ("Further
thoughts on outbound in the UK.....") and while automating the calls might make it cheaper, it hardly makes it more popular. This only adds to thoughts I've had in posts like: "Abbey
National fined £30,000 by Ofcom & the future of Outbound in Financial Services" that outbound calling is gets the industry a bad name.
I appreciate fully that banks need to chase bad debts (and some consumers appreciate reminders). However with Ofcom looking to release new, almost certainly tighter, regulations on these outbound systems in June, this may not be the best time for the banks
to have poor public relations.
P.S. If any reader requires a guide to call centre outbound technology, this past post provides it: "Outbound, an explanation of the technology"