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Fines for silent calling firms raised to £2m

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20th Sep 2010
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UK firms that make silent nuisance calls will face fines of up to £2 million as of the last week in September.

Members of Parliament on the delegated legislation committee approved an order on Monday to raise the current level of fine, which was put up to £50,000 in 2006. The penalty can be imposed on companies if they abandon more than 3% of the calls they make in a 24-hour period, thus leaving the line silent when recipients answer the phone.

Ed Richards, chief executive of telecoms regulator Ofcom, welcomed the move. "The increase reflects the potential seriousness of the harm caused to consumers by the unsolicited and intrusive nature of silent and abandoned calls and enables Ofcom to effectively regulate these activities," he said.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey indicated that the watchdog has taken informal action against 22 companies since the £50,000 maximum penalty was introduced, but felt it was "hampered" in its enforcement activity by the relatively low level of the fine.

But the higher penalty will also apply to other forms of persistent telephone misuse, he added. Such activities include number scanning, withholding calling line identification facilities and using systems for dishonest gain.

Silent or abandoned calls are generated by contact centres using automated calling systems, but in some cases, the system dials more numbers that agents are able to cope with. Problems can also occur if the dialler technology mistakenly believes a call has been answered by answering machine, although in reality it has been picked up by a person.

Ofcom research, which was undertaken between October and December last year, found that 47% of adults felt ‘very inconvenienced’ by silent calls, while 32% were ‘very concerned’.

But since the watchdog introduced its initial regulation four years ago, the number of complaints relating to such activity has fallen, dropping from 1,300 in October 2008 to 825 in March 2010.

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