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Silent calls firms facing £2 million fines

Ofcom has welcomed news that companies which continue to bombard consumers with silent and abandoned calls will now face fines of up to £2 million.

The Department for Business and Skills (BIS) has announced it is raising the maximum penalty which had previously stood at £50,000, subject to Parliamentary approval.

Ofcom introduced rules to tackle silent calls in 2006 and since then we have investigated and fined a number of companies, including Carphone Warehouse, Abbey National and Barclaycard, which was fined the then maximum amount of £50,000 in September 2008.

Last year Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe called on the Government for stronger powers to clampdown on silent and abandoned calls.

‘Serious abuse’

Speaking before a parliamentary committee on 16 January 2009, Colette said silent calls were a ‘serious abuse which causes untold concern to older people who are very, very disturbed by silent calls, and it is an unacceptable face of the industry and we need stronger powers to tackle it.’

The increased maximum penalty will enable Ofcom to more effectively tackle the serious problem of silent calls, acting as a deterrent and if necessary sanction on those who breach Ofcom’s rules.

The vast majority of silent calls are caused by automated calling systems known as diallers.

Mainly used in call centres, these systems dial telephone numbers automatically and connect the customer to agents as soon as the phone is answered.

But problems sometimes occur when dialler technology mistakenly identifies a call as being answered by an answer machine when in reality it has been answered by a person.

Enforcement

Ofcom has an open enforcement and monitoring programme which aims to reduce the harm which can be caused by silent and abandoned calls.

As well as the action against Carphone Warehouse, Abbey National and Barclaycard, Ofcom has also taken enforcement action against  Complete Credit Management Ltd, Equidebt Ltd, Ultimate Credit Services Ltd,  Space Kitchens, Bracken Bay Kitchens and Toucan.

The Communications Consumer Panel has also welcomed today’s announcement.

Communications Consumer Panel Chair Anna Bradley said: ‘The Panel is delighted that BIS has listened to our advice and will give Ofcom the ability to fine companies up to £2 million for making persistent silent calls.

‘Silent calls cause much annoyance and anxiety, particularly for older people who live alone. Consumers should now be better protected.’

Consumer Guide

If you want to learn more about nuisance calls and what causes them, take a look at our nuisance calls guide.

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