Regulation Hub Update - Winter 23/24 | DMA

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Regulation Hub Update - Winter 23/24


This article is written by Steve Sullivan, Founder of Channel Doctors, and Deputy Chair of the Contact Centre Council.

The latest regulation and compliance news for contact centres from the DMA Contact Centre Council’s Regulation Hub.

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By the end of 2023, it looked like the ICO had lost its appetite for fines and robust enforcement action, with fewer fines than were levied in recent years and most of them imposed on obscure and/or dubious firms. However, 2024 started with the high profile £140,000 fine of Hello Fresh.

The details are here, but the headlines are quite startling:

  • Hello Fresh sent 79 million emails and 1 million texts over 7 months that the ICO said were illegal
  • Hello Fresh's marketing opt-in mentioned emails but gave customers no idea that they would receive SMS messages as well
  • Customers had no way of stating their contact channel preferences
  • The opt-in was bundled with an age confirmation tick box
  • Hello Fresh routinely re-marketed customers who had cancelled their subscriptions for 24 months after the cancellation

Data Protection & Digital Information (DPDI) Bill

The new Data Protection & Digital Information bill is continuing its progress through parliament this Spring. If you want an update for what it might mean to you, you can catch up with the DMA's Legal and Marketing Compliance Update webinar held in January.

AI. Oh aye

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be the most talked about (and possibly most little understood) area in the world of customer experience and marketing. And most other things, too.

The DMA's Governance Committee has an expert AI Taskforce - which includes the Contact Centre Council's very own Al White - developing the DMA's approach to how to appropriately use AI.

Al has shared with us that the ICO has started a series of consultations on AI and its regulation, which you can view here.

But as Al has pointed out, even the ICO's existing rules around transparency could create headaches for firms using analytics to better understand their customers, characteristics and behaviour, without any inclusion of AI techniques:

Ofcom pushes telco firms to stop number 'spoofing'

Ofcom has announced that it is tightening up its rules requiring network providers to block illegitimate and scam calls from abroad that 'spoof' their origin to mislead consumers by using UK 'presentation' numbers.

Consultation: Tackling scam calls - expecting providers to block more calls with spoofed numbers

Ofcom's latest report on firms' complaints levels shows that persistent poor performer, Virgin Media, was the most complained about major form in the Broadband, Landline, and Pay-TV sectors. O2 has the dubious honour for the mobile sector.

Ofcom acknowledged that it may have contributed to Virgin's complaints after it announced an investigation into whether Virgin was failing in its duty of care to vulnerable customers. But across all the telco sectors the biggest cause of complaints was the firms' prior handling of complaints - which again demonstrates the vicious circle that organisations can enter, in which one complaint leads to another.

Just as Ofgem's new Customer Service Standard started to demand improved customer service delivery and mitigations for vulnerable customers, Which published the results of its annual survey of over 9,000 energy consumers. Market leader British Gas fared the worst, with Mum's and Dad's favourite, Octopus, coming top with a 5-star rating from Which's readers.

However, British Gas disputed the findings, saying that data was out of date and pointed out that it has since spent £25m improving its customer service, resulting in extended opening hours and the hiring of a hefty additional 700 contact staff.

In the Autumn, Ofwat proved that its performance related charging scheme had teeth when 12 out of 17 firms were required to return over £100m to bill payers for not meeting targets, as reported by Sky News. These were mostly to do with the firm's notoriously bad handling of waste water and sewage, but also included customer service metrics.

Content accurate as of 8th February 2024

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