The Government has launched a consultation exercise aimed at producing legislation to increase penalties imposed on companies that cause a nuisance to consumers through ‘silent calls’ (calls that when answered are silent or merely bleep). The proposal is that fines should be increased to a maximum of £50,000. The current maximum fine is £5,000.
BT is said to be receiving nearly 40,000 complaints a month regarding such calls, which are the result of the use of automated dialling programmes used by call centres. Such systems are designed to provide a steady stream of connections for call centre staff. When there is no staff member available to take the call, the result is a silent call.
BT has also offered a privacy service, which prevents calls being received from a phone which does not have a ‘caller number identity’. However, many businesses and some individuals use phone systems which automatically withhold the caller’s number, so it is unwise to subscribe to this service unless you are certain that you wish to filter out all such calls.
Consumers who do not wish their telephone numbers to be used for sales calls can subscribe to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which maintains a database of firms and people who have indicated their desire not to receive unsolicited phone calls. This register should be consulted by companies wishing to carry out telesales type operations. Again, failure to observe the code is punishable by fines. For more information on the TPS and to register for inclusion on the list, see the TPS website
One problem with both of these solutions however is that neither has any effect on telephone calls arising from outside the UK.