Ofcom 'failing to tackle silent calling'

Ofcom will fine companies up  to £2 million for silent calling
Ofcom will fine companies up to £2 million for silent calling

By Hannah Brenton

Ofcom should do more to combat silent calling, according to an influential parliamentary committee.

The watchdog announced last month that any companies caught silent calling would face a fine of up to £2 million, a significant increase from the previous maximum payment of £50,000.

But Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons' public accounts committee, said: "Ofcom has not done enough to deal with such persistent problems as silent calls, the difficulty of switching telecom provider, and the limited competition in the fixed-line telephony market."

Silent calls can be an everyday annoyance for UK consumers. Companies often use a computerised system to call customers which only connects to a company employee once the call is answered.

When no-one in the company is available or the technology fails to recognise a voice, it will automatically hang up and treat customers to a long silence.

An Ofcom spokesman said: "On silent calls Ofcom called on parliament for higher penalties which have just been granted; Ofcom will continue its drive to tackle this issue."

The comments are part of the committee's general report into the "value for money" provided by the independent regulator.

Ofcom received an annual budget of £122 million last year, but MPs argued that the Treasury's funding process was wrong-headed.

"Ofcom manages its expenditure within an overall cap, which is agreed each year with the Treasury. In most organisations the intended work plan will determine the budget, but in Ofcom it is effectively the other way round," the report said.

"This has the potential to incentivise Ofcom to make decisions based on keeping within the cap - rather than maximising value."

The committee found that the regulator needed clearer goals, but that overall the results for consumers had been "broadly positive".


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