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Penalty for silent calling goes sky high

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Companies caught repeatedly making silent calls could get fined up to £2m in future, compared to the £50,000 maximum that taciturn sales staff currently pay.

After a consultation period, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills has decided upping the potential fine is the best way to stop companies giving people the silent treatment.

Silent calls are generated when an automated dialling system calls up marks on the expectation that a call-centre drone will be available to talk when the phone is picked up. But if no drone is available then the callee is left hanging on the line. That's an irritation to most of us, but scary in the wrong circumstances.

The problem peaked a couple of years back when the kit got cheap enough for everyone and their brother to buy. During 2008 Ofcom was getting more than a thousand complaints a month, and came down hard on some big brands involved. Last year saw around half the number of complaints, but now the regulator wants more than a slap on the wrist for those who can't be brought to book any other way.

The £2m fine won't be applied often, but it will be a significant stick for Ofcom to shake at naughty companies - assuming they're based in the UK. Cheaper transatlantic rates means many sales calls come from the USA these days - beyond the reach of Ofcom and outside the remit of the Telephone Preference Service. ®

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