How Ofcom is tackling silent calls
Silent calls 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.
That’s why in 2006 Ofcom introduced rules to crack down on silent calls, which has lead to a significant reduction in consumer complaints about this problem.
Complaints to Ofcom’s advisory team have fallen from 1,300 in October 2008 to 825 in March 2010, while BT’s nuisance calls bureau dealt with under 1,000 complaints in March compared to 5,000 in October 2008.
What causes silent calls?
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 these systems generate more calls than can be answered by call centre staff.
Silent calls can also occur when technology used by call centres to detect answer machines mistakes a live consumer for an answering machine and cuts off the call without the person hearing anything.
What has Ofcom done?
Ofcom’s rules state that silent calls must not exceed a certain number and that operators must put other safeguards in place, like pre-recorded messages.
Companies fined for silent calls
Ultimate Credit Services Ltd -£45,000
Equidebt Ltd – £36,000
Barclaycard – £50,000
Abbey National – £30,000
Complete Credit Management Ltd – £5,000
Space Kitchens – £45,000
Bracken Bay Kitchens – £40,000
Carphone Warehouse – £35,000
Toucan – £32,500
Today we’re also proposing a new rule to prevent a company calling an answer phone more than once in any 24 hour period, unless a call centre agent is on hand to answer the call.
We are also continually monitoring the complaints we receive about silent calls and we will investigate any company which we believe is not complying with the rules.
Since introducing our rules in 2006, we’ve fined nine firms for breaking our rules (see side panel).
In 2009 Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe also called on the Government for stronger powers to clampdown on silent and abandoned calls.
Earlier this year the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) announced it is raising the maximum penalty which had previously stood at £50,000, subject to Parliamentary approval.
What can you do?
If you’ve received a silent call we’d like to hear from you.
Whilst Ofcom cannot respond to all consumers personally, the information you give us is used to identify trends and can lead to us investigating a particular company’s behavior.
Although in most instances we will not require further information, we may approach you directly should more detail be required.
Ofcom also speaks to phone companies regularly. The data we collect from them about silent calls also helps us decide whether an investigation is required.
If you would like to share your experience with Ofcom please click here.
Help and advice
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.
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