Ofcom chair demands tougher penalties for silent calls

LONDON - Colette Bowe, the incoming chair for Ofcom, has said that companies targeting households with silent calls should be fined more than the current maximum of £50,000 because they are "frightening" for older people.

Bowe, who is taking over as Ofcom chair from David Currie, told a joint session of the Culture Media and Sport Committee and the Business and Enterprise Committee that silent calls were an "abuse" and called for stiffer penalties.

Most silent calls occur when call centres using automated calling systems generate more calls than their available agents can deal with. When the person called answers the telephone, there is no agent available, resulting in silence on the line.

Ofcom reported that the number of consumer complaints about silent calls increased from around 300 per month to around 1050 per month from September 2007 to September 2008.

In September last year Ofcom fined Barclaycard the maximum £50,000 for breaching its rules on silent and abandoned calls, and said it would have levied a bigger penalty if it could.