The UK communications watchdog has upped the maximum fine for repeat silent call offenders from £50,000 to £2 million under new rules that have just come into force.
Ofcom indicated that it received more than 9,000 complaints about silent calls last year, with more than 70% of those affected saying that they had answered two or more calls from the same company in one day.
In most instances, the problem is caused by call centre technology, which is used to detect answering machines. If it does not recognise a ‘live’ person on the end of the line, the call is cut off, which means that the person on the other end only hears silence.
Ed Richards, the regulator’s chief executive, said: "Silent and abandoned calls can cause significant consumer harm. Ofcom has given sufficient warnings to companies about silent calls and is ready to take appropriate action against those companies that continue to break the rules."
The new regulations, which were approved by Parliament last September, prevent organisations from using answer machine detection equipment more than once a day after recognising such devices on the first attempt.
Ofcom has already fined nine companies for making silent or abandoned calls, with Barclaycard receiving the maximum penalty of £50,000 at the time. It has now written to the call centre industry spelling out the implications of the new regulations and warning that it will not hesitate to impose the maximum fine where appropriate.