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Persistent misuse

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Oftel is plugging a loophole in UK regulations which let rogue telemarketing firms to get away with persistently making nuisance calls so long as they did not actually commit a criminal offence.

The telecoms watchdog said that, after publishing its regulatory revisions, it is able to take action against any company that misuses networks or services in a way that causes "annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety", but falls short of committing a criminal offence or breaking data protection legislation.

Firms that continue to flout the regulations and create a nuisance risk facing fines of up to £5,000 and be required to pay compensation, Oftel warned.

David Edmonds, Oftel's director general of telecommunications, said the change marks the first time the regulator has had sufficient power to deal effectively with nuisance callers.

"These new powers enable Oftel to take action against activities that can irritate or upset consumers but fall short of criminal behaviour.

"We hope that these powers will act as a deterrent to individuals or companies who make nuisance calls."

The key change emerging from Oftel's snappily-titled document - Statement of policy on the persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or electronic communications service - is the introduction of a category dubbed "persistent misuse".
This deals with firms which have previously escaped sanction as they did not break criminal laws.

"Persistent misuse is a category of behaviour intended to apply to activities that, although causing unnecessary annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to another person, are not serious enough to be prosecuted as criminal offences," the policy document states. ®

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