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 callers 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 65s had received silent calls within the six months prior to June 2009.
Consumer Minister Kevin Brennan said:
Its important that consumers can have confidence that they are protected. These fines will act as a clear deterrent to companies if they dont 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 handling complaints.
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