Ofcom Fines over Silent Calls will Continue, warns Eversheds

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Communications regulator Ofcom shows no sign of slowing its campaign against abandoned or silent calls, following its recent fines against four companies including Carphone Warehouse, totalling £150,000, warn experts at international law firm Eversheds. Any business, including those operating call centres outside the communications industry, which uses automated dialling systems, needs to keep a close eye on recent developments, or potentially face a hefty fine.

Silent calls occur when companies use automated dialling equipment to call a number of customers at the same time, for example, as part of a marketing campaign. When the customer receives a call and there is no agent available, the automated system ends the call, meaning the customer may have no means of establishing who is trying to contact them.

Ofcom has fined four companies under the Communications Act 2003 for persistently misusing an electronic communications network or service, and this includes making an excessive number of silent or abandoned calls. Ofcom has the power to formally request that any company provides it with information on call volumes and may take enforcement action against those found to have breached the rules. It can impose fines of up to £50,000 for non compliance.

Elizabeth Wilks-Wood, telecoms expert at Eversheds law firm, continues:

“Businesses and call centre operators should not think that the recent high-profile cases have been purely as a result of Ofcom reacting to increased media scrutiny on silent calls. Ofcom is taking the issue extremely seriously, and with consumers now becoming increasingly aware of how to register their grievances, these fines could only be the tip of the iceberg.”

Wilks-Wood continues: “Ofcom’s increasingly proactive approach to monitoring such calls has demonstrated its commitment to taking decisive enforcement action where appropriate. Many businesses may be unaware of the wide scope of Ofcom’s powers in that they go beyond companies in the communications industry. Any business in any sector which uses automated dialling equipment could potentially face a hefty fine if they breach Ofcom’s rules.

“Businesses are advised to review their current policies and how they use automated dialling equipment, or they could not only find themselves on the wrong side of the law, but also in the media spotlight, given the large amount of press interest in this issue. If a business has concerns in this area, it should seek specialist legal advice immediately.”