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Silent calls: new rules to prevent harassment take effect

  • Published: Wednesday, 2 February 2011

New rules designed to prevent consumers being harassed by repeated silent calls from the same company have come into force. Companies that fail to follow the new rules could be hit with fines of up to £2 million.

Preventing repeated silent calls

Silent calls are often caused by the technology used by call centre operators to detect answer machines.

This can mistake a 'live' consumer for an answering machine and cut off the call without the person hearing anything, resulting in a silent call.

Silent calls can cause real distress to consumers, particularly when these calls are received repeatedly. They can even lead some people to think they’re being specifically targeted.

Under the new rules, companies can no longer use answer machine detection equipment more than once a day if an answer machine is ‘detected’ on the first attempt.

This would mean that consumers currently worst affected should no longer get repeated silent calls from the same company over the course of a day.

Companies that fail to follow the new rules could face fines of up to £2 million.

Ed Richards, chief executive of Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, 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 who continue to break the rules."

What you can do

If you receive silent phone calls there are several helplines you can ring or websites to visit.

You can register with the Telephone Preference System (TPS) either online or by calling 0845 070 0707. This states your wish not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls.

The BT Easiserve line lets you speak to an advisor about silent calls – call 0800 661 441.

Ofcom also has a complaints line for people who receive silent calls – call 0300 123 3333.

For further information on how to avoid silent and nuisance calls, and what to do if you receive them, follow the links below.

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