Regulator to launch new investigation into the root problems and ways to tackle silent or abandoned calls
Ofcom is setting up a consumer panel to help it tackle the on-going problem of nuisance calls.
Despite getting stronger powers two years ago to deal with companies making silent calls, the communications regulator's latest Consumer Experience Report shows this issue remains a key concern for people; with a peak of just under 3,400 complaints in July last year.
Now as part of new research initiative Ofcom hopes that the panel comprising a cross-section of members of the public will help it track down the offending companies.
The panel members will keep a diary recording any calls that they receive, holding on the line long enough to be able to determine the nature of the call, and detailing their experience.
The information they gather will help Ofcom to understand the frequency of the different types of nuisance calls and the companies and sectors generating them; many of whom it said are likely to be debt or claims management companies.
The regulator will share the findings with other bodies such as the Information Commissioner's Office, the Office of Fair Trading, and the Ministry of Justice
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's Consumer Group Director, said: "Nuisance calls can cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety to consumers. This is a complex and challenging area, but Ofcom is determined to work with industry and other regulators to help protect consumers. Our new research will help to understand the root cause of the problem."
However, as many silent calls are difficult to trace, because phone numbers are withheld, Ofcom will also have to work closely with the telecoms industry in order to identify ways to identify and trace companies that try to hide their identity.
"We will be using caller identification technologies as part of this investigation," an Ofcom representative said.
Mike Lordan, chief of operations for the Direct Marketing Association welcomed Ofcom's latest initiatives addressing the issue of nuisance calls saying these calls can be not only annoying but cause distress.
"...[it] brings the UK telemarketing industry into disrepute and undermines consumers' confidence in the value of the channel.
"The vast majority of the telemarketing industry complies with the law and adheres to the highest standards of best practice. However, those companies that are breaking the rules are causing harm to businesses that comply with the law.
"We are particularly pleased that Ofcom's strengthening its ongoing enforcement work to tackle silent and abandoned calls and hope that the Information Commissioner's Office will follow with similar action to deal with unsolicited sales and marketing calls."
Ofcom, which now has the power to fine companies up to £2m for making silent or abandoned calls, last April fined insurance company HomeServe £750,000. Its biggest penalty on a company to date for making silent or abandoned calls.
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