Ofcom finalises rules on silent calls

LONDON – Ofcom yesterday introduced its new policy on silent calls after its consultation process led it to slightly alter the rules it proposed last year.

The finalised version of the rules keeps the 3% ceiling for abandoned call rates in any 24-hour period, along with the requirements for all abandoned calls to carry a recorded message and for calling line identification to be included on all outbound calls generated by automated diallers.

However, Ofcom has dropped the requirement for the recorded message to identify the purpose of the call. This was because debt collectors pointed out the sensitivity of their calls being noted by people other than the intended recipient of the call.

Ofcom said that the Information Commissioner's Office stated that if it was only debt collection companies that did not have to identify the call's purpose, then that would have a negative effect on the individual's privacy, so it has decided to completely drop the identification requirement.

The message still has to give recipients a number they can contact to decline to receive further calls from a company.

Another confirmed rule is that a number that receives an abandoned call should not be called by an automatic dialler for at least 72 hours unless a dedicated operator is available to take the call. In addition, call centres have to keep records for at least six months to demonstrate their compliance with the rules.

The fine for breaking the rules will be increased from £5,000 to £50,000 after a separate DTI consultation later this year.

Stephen Carter, Ofcom chief executive, said: "There is a clear case for action here. We now have powers which will enable us to act effectively against silent calls."

Ofcom said it was not going to define a set timetable for companies to ensure compliance with the procedures, but would take each case on its merits. It promised to review the policy after 12 months.

The document outlining Ofcom's decision can be found on its website.

A DMA spokeswoman said the association would formally respond within days. "However, we can say that we welcome Ofcom's initiatives, which are generally in parallel with our code of practice and therefore, which our members should be adhering to."

Pic: Getty Images

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