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MP calls for action over menacing 'silent' calls

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Communications regulator Ofcom isn't doing enough to protect people from the menace of "silent" phone calls made by companies trying to flog their goods and services.

BT receives more than 112,000 complaints a month from people worried that they've received a "silent" call.

These calls are generated by computers in call centres which automatically dial numbers. In many cases, though, when people pick up the phone - no-one's there. That's because call centres often generate more calls than they can handle on the basis that some people won't be in to answer the call. But for people who receive a number of these silent cold calls, it can be a real menace.

Speaking yesterday Labour MP Kevin Brennan rounded on the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) for not doing enough to stamp out the practise in its industry.

Brennan, whose Bill in November to make "silent calls" an offence ran out of parliamentary time, acknowledged that while the DMA industry was "a legitimate one", its "methods are unacceptable".

"These calls cause many problems for those receiving them. The elderly are unduly inconvenienced by these calls and often believe that they are receiving malicious calls. Those that find it difficult to get to the phone are also seriously inconvenienced with silent calls. They have difficulty getting to the phone only to find that when they answer there is a recorded message or worse still silence.

"This is why we need stronger regulation - in the industry's own interest," said the Cardiff West MP.

"Ofcom seems unwilling to use the powers that they have been given under the Communications Act. At present Ofcom will not take action against a company unless this has been instigated by an individual or an outside agency.

"The current enforcement has been ineffective in offering a solution, what is required is a new and stronger partnership between the industry and regulator.

"The powers that are currently held by Ofcom need to be used more effectively in order to deter companies from flaunting the current legislation." ®

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