Silent Calls Clampdown
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23 October 2009
Firms which cause nuisance and distress to consumers through silent and
abandoned calls could face fines of up to £2 million under Government proposals
unveiled today. The current maximum penalty stands at £50,000.
Silent calls are generated when call centres that use automated calling
systems (ACS) dial more numbers than there are staff available to speak to the
person who picks up the phone.
In a consultation published today, the Government will seek views on plans
to raise the current maximum penalty for persistent misuse to either £250,000,
£500,000, £1million or £2million. This work follows commitments in the Digital
Britain and Consumer White Papers to increase the penalties for companies
making excessive silent calls and causing unnecessary annoyance to many people
across the UK.
Minister for Digital Britain Stephen Timms said:
“Silent calls can cause a great deal of annoyance and distress -
particularly to the elderly and vulnerable when their phone rings but no-one is
on the end of the line. Often the caller’s number is withheld so the
individual who has been dialled has no idea who is calling them.
“We want to send a clear message to those companies that are
persistently abusing these automated calling systems that this will not be
tolerated and there is a price to pay.”
Research carried out by Ofcom this year found that 49% of adults felt
“very inconvenienced” by silent calls and 35% of over 65’s
had received silent calls within the six months prior to June 2009.
Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said:
“It’s important that consumers can have confidence that they are
protected. These fines will act as a clear deterrent to companies – if
they don’t change their ways they face a hefty fine.
“As well as causing untold anxiety, silent calls are potentially
damaging to the good name of the firms which make them. Firms that eliminate
them could see increased customer loyalty and reduced operational costs from
Consumers can register their wish not to receive unsolicited marketing phone
calls with the Telephone Preference System (TPS) – a free service which
can also reduce silent calls. It is a legal requirement that companies do not
make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS.
TPS Registration line - 0845 070 0707
1. Ofcom research into the issue, carried out between January and June 2009,
found that 49% of adults were very inconvenienced by silent calls and 36% were
very concerned. During the same period, 3,000 consumers contacted BT’s
Nuisance Calls Bureau and about 12,000 per month listened to BT’s
2. The current framework for regulating silent and abandoned calls, is set
out in the Communications Act 2003. The Act provides powers to Ofcom to take
action against those who persistently misuse networks or services in a way that
causes, or is likely to cause, unnecessary annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety,
but which falls short of a criminal offence.
3. On 10 September 2008 Ofcom published a revised statement of policy on the
persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service, which
tightened up the rules concerning the usage of ACS. The previous penalty of
£5,000 was increased to £50,000 in April 2006. Ofcom has since then
successfully pursued nine cases against companies which were found to have
generated unacceptably high levels of silent and or abandoned calls. It has
issued financial penalties in each case and also has an ongoing enforcement
4. The consultation document is published on Friday, 23 October 2009. The
deadline for consultation responses is on 22 January 2010. The Government will
publish its response to the consultation in March.
5. Apart from silent and abandoned calls other types of persistent misuse
include for example number scanning, misuse of call line identification
facility, misuse for dishonest gain and misuse of allocated telephone numbers.
The increase in penalty that we are proposing will apply equally to all forms
of persistent misuse. The majority of cases are misuse in the form of silent
and abandoned calls and therefore the main purpose of this enforcement activity
will be to minimise the harm caused by silent and abandoned calls.
6. Plans to increase the penalties for misuse of ACS were set out in the
Digital Britain Report: www.
Department for Business, Innovation & Skill
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a
dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business
success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the
skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class
universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-10-23 20:32:52 in Business Articles