Teleperformance, which is headquartered in France, has between 9,000 to 10,000 UK staff and provides call centre services for the Passport Office. The office recently warned people to expect waits of up to 10 weeks for their applications to be approved, as it faced “unprecedented demand” for passports.
Applicants have complained about lengthy delays, only to then find staff are working from home and unable to access their files.
Others have said they have been unable to reach Passport Office staff or, when they get through, claim they have been provided with inaccurate information.
Now, Abigail Tierney, director general of the Passport Office, has called in the chief executive of Paris-based Teleperformance as staff failed to answer calls and customers reported delays of up to four hours before their calls were picked up.
Insiders told the Telegraph Passport Office bosses are “angry” at the failure of the company to prepare for the surge in demand as up to five million Britons.
A source told the newspaper: “We are seeing a huge number of calls where they are not able to get through, then they call back which then creates a vicious circle.
“People are calling back five to 10 times which is then blocking it so when people cannot get in touch with Teleperformance to ask for assurance, they are then going to their MPs.
“It is not so much that their application is a problem, it’s because they cannot get that assurance and that’s not good enough.”
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Kevin Foster, the Home Office minister, told MPs on Wednesday that the handling of the calls by Teleperformance had been “unacceptable”.
Mr Foster said: “The core message would want to get out to the public is to make your application now if you are planning to travel in the summer and we will get through it in the time we say we will which is the 10 week period.”
Responding to an urgent question by Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, Mr Foster added anyone travelling abroad this summer should submit new passport applications and renewals as soon as possible.
He insisted a “range of efforts” were being made to process applications, and said: “Staff are working weekends, incentivised overtime – and certainly we’re confident we will not need to change the 10-week target.”
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Mr Foster said March saw the “highest total for any month on record, with HM Passport Office completing the processing of over one million applications – 13 percent higher than the previous record output”.
It is thought there are about 700,000 outstanding passport applications, of which 300,000 are waiting for documents to be uploaded before they can be processed, and a further 400,000 in the system which staff are working to grant.
Officials say they are completing between 220,000 and 250,000 a week, with more than 40,000 a day being submitted.
The Passport Office said in a statement it had been advising people since April 2021 to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their passport.
A spokeswoman said: “We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible, with the vast majority of all passports applications being dealt with well within 10 weeks.”