Ofcom threatens big money fines for silent calling

Phone fine

Companies using automatic dialling equipment and subjecting customers to numerous silent calls could face significant fines, according to a new ruling from Ofcom.

As of 1 February 2011, new regulations will come into force which, if broken, could lead to fines of up to 2 million for corporations.

The major new rule for call centres will be not to use answer machine detecting equipment more than once a day if an answer machine is detected on the first call. Ofcom claimed this would help the worst affected customers who currently received multiple calls over a 24 hour period.

It also ruled companies should not contact a customer again within 72 hours of a silent call without the guarantee of an operator being live and they should ensure the abandoned call rate was no higher than three per cent of its live call figures.

Ofcom has already fined nine companies for silent calling but the maximum penalty was 50,000 once given to BarclayCard.

However, last September the regulator got the nod from Parliament to ramp up the top fine to 2 million.

The regulator plans to continue monitoring complaints around these type of calls and hopes the regulations and new fine limit will encourage companies to drop the practice.

"Silent and abandoned calls can cause significant consumer harm," said Ed Richards, chief executive (CEO) of Ofcom. "Ofcom has given sufficient warnings to companies about silent calls and is ready to take appropriate action against those companies who continue to break the rules."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.