Watchdog tackles 'silent calls'
Published 01/10/2010 | 11:02
Consumers are to be spared from repeated silent phone calls made by companies under new rules.
Ofcom is to ban companies from using the technology which leads to silent calls more than once a day to individual households.
More than 70% of consumers who have complained about silent calls received two or more in a day from the same firm, the communications regulator said.
The calls were often made over a period of days or even weeks.
Ofcom believes the fault lies with call centre technology that can mistake a "live" consumer for an answering machine, cutting off the call without the person answering hearing anything.
The new rules will prevent a company using answer machine detection equipment more than once a day unless a call centre agent is on hand to answer. This would mean that consumers currently worst affected should no longer receive repeated silent calls over the course of a day, Ofcom said.
The new rules come into effect on February 1 next year.
Ofcom received 6,600 complaints about silent and abandoned calls last year and has already received more than 6,800 complaints this year.
Last week Parliament approved an increase in the financial penalty Ofcom can impose on firms making silent and abandoned calls from £50,000 to £2 million. The regulator has previously fined nine companies for making such calls.
Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: "Silent and abandoned calls can cause significant consumer harm. By tackling repeat silent calls, backed by firm enforcement action and a strong financial deterrent, Ofcom expects to see an overall reduction in harm as providers stop these practices."