Marketing firms may be fined up to £50,000 for making nuisance silent phone calls to people's homes.
Silent calls can irritate or even scare consumers
The government is proposing a tenfold rise in the maximum fine.
Silent calls happen when companies use automatic dialling machines to ring several people, but then only speak to the one who answers first.
The communications regulator, Ofcom, wants companies to leave recorded messages, stating who they are and why they have called.
"Consumers deserve proper protection," said Trade & Industry Secretary Alan Johnson.
"We are showing how determined we are to crack down on the distress nuisance calls cause the public."
Ofcom has been investigating seven companies accused of making nuisance silent calls.
It has now ordered four of them to cut their rates of abandoned calls to less than 3%.
The regulator also wants to prevent companies re-dialling a number within 72 hours of abandoning a previous automated call, unless an operator is definitely available to respond to a householder.
Another measure being demanded by Ofcom is that householders should be able to trace a caller's number by dialling 1471 so it can be blocked in future.
BT says it receives about 160,000 complaints from its customers each month about silent calls.
The Telephone Preference Service, an industry service which screens them out, already has 10.5 million phone numbers registered with it.
A campaigner against silent calls for the last two years, David Hickson from West London, said: "It is proof that if you do work hard enough at something and you are sure you are right, then in the end things can come through."