Tighter silent call rulesFine raised for nuisance call companies

31 October 2005

Companies that consistently plague homeowners with nuisance silent calls are to face fines of up to GPB 50,000 under new plans announced by the government today.

Silent calls happen when automated calling systems - used by call centres - dial more numbers than the call centre agents can deal with. So when some people answer their phone, there's no-one on the other end of the line.

Announcing a consultation on the plans, Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson said: 'Consumers deserve proper protection from companies making excessive silent calls.

'By increasing the maximum fines from GBP 5,000 to GBP 50,000, we are showing how determined we are to crack down on the distress nuisance calls cause the public, especially elderly and vulnerable people.'

Although the GBP 5,000 fine came in through a law introduced in 2003, the phone regulator Ofcom admitted it had not fined any companies for silent nuisance calls. It said it had taken written undertakings to deal with such behaviour.

Call for tighter controls

At the moment companies aren't punished for silent phone calls if they constitute less than 5 per cent of their total calls over 24 hours. Ofcom wants that figure lowered to 3 per cent. It also wants abandoned calls to carry a recorded message which identifies the source of the call and offers the recipient an opportunity to decline further calls from that source.

As the plans were announced, Ofcom revealed the conclusion of an investigation into seven companies following complaints about silent and abandoned calls. It says there are reasonable grounds to believe that four of the companies - Thomson Directories, Ant Marketing, Fax Information Services and Promote-It - breached the rules.

These organisations must now cut their abandoned call rate and provide monthly reports to Ofcom on their performance until May 2006.