Ofcom clamp down on silent calls

They're the bane of many an evening in, but today the government has unveiled new plans to clamp down on the companies that plague customers with silent calls.

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The calls occur when call centres using automated machine systems generate more calls than the agents are able to deal with. All too often the customer is never connected to a call centre agent and is instead greeted only by silence.

Communications regulator, Ofcom, receives around 400 complaints a month and carried out research earlier this year that revealed 49% of adults were "very inconvenienced" by silent calls.

Over 35% of over-65s, for whom silent calls can be worrying, said they had received such calls.

Currently, companies that persist in making silent calls can be fined up to £50,000 but the government's proposal means that the fine could be increased to a maximum of £2m.

Treasury minister Stephen Timms, who is implementing the Digital Britain plan, 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."