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Tackling silent calls

A change to Ofcom rules should further reduce the amount of silent calls suffered by consumers.

These calls – where you pick up the receiver only to be met with silence at the other end – can be annoying and irritating at the best of times.

But for some people – particularly those living alone – they can be frightening and cause undue worry and anxiety.

Silent calls are generated when automated calling systems used by call centres dial more numbers than can be answered by staff.

Ofcom rules

Ofcom introduced a number of rules to tackle the problem, including one forcing call centres using diallers to play an information message if a call was abandoned.

That message had to be played within two seconds of the phone being picked up.

We’ve now amended these rules so that the two seconds can begin after the person answering the phone starts speaking.

The reason for this is that it will make it easier for diallers to detect when a call is being answered by a real person or an answering machine.


This should in turn generate fewer silent calls as diallers will be less likely to hang up on real people thinking they were an answering machine.

Ofcom is continually monitoring the complaints we receive about silent calls and we will investigate any company which we believe is not complying with the rules.

In the past we have taken action against companies such as Carphone Warehouse and Abbey National and last October fined Barclaycard the current maximum penalty of £50,000.

We have asked for a change to the law to allow us to significantly increase the amount of money we can fine companies that break the rules.

The Government is now consulting on increasing the maximum penalty to as much as £2 million.

Video and guide

If you want to learn more about silent calls and what causes them, take a look at our video above.

It looks at the rules Ofcom introduced to address this issue, and includes help and advice on what to do if you receive a silent call.

We also have a printed guide containing help and advice about silent calls. Click here to download it.

Subtitled version of the video

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