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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Firm warned on cold-call tactics
Telephone
Will there be anyone on the other end of the line?
Telecoms regulator Ofcom has threatened to take action against a company for making too many silent calls.

Ofcom said the calls by Kitchens Direct owner MKD Holdings caused "annoyance" and "anxiety" to consumers.

Silent calls can occur when automated calling systems used in call centres generate too many calls for operators to deal with.

In a statement, MKD Holdings said that it was seeking to minimise silent call levels from its call centres.

'Last chance'

Silent calls are generated when a telemarketing company tries to cold-call a household using an automated calling system.

However, if the system generates too many calls for the operators in the call centre to deal with, then some of the calls may be terminated - which means the person called hears silence when they answer the phone.

Under the Direct Marketing Association guidelines, telemarketing firms are not supposed to have more than 5% of their call ending in silence.

We will be doing everything in our powers to crack down on this because we feel it's a very serious issue
Ofcom spokesman

Following an investigation into MKD Holdings by Ofcom, the regulator said that it had found the number of silent calls MKD had generated could be deemed a "persistent misuse" of the network "in a way that causes annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to consumers".

Ofcom has given MKD until the end of May to ensure that the percentage of silent calls over any 24 hour period does not exceed 5% or it could be fined.

"It is the very, very last chance," Ofcom said.

In a statement, MKD Holdings said it "uses telemarketing as a recognised route to potential customers and is committed to ensuring that there is no anxiety or inconvenience caused to the general public as a result of this".

It added that it had given an undertaking to Ofcom "that we shall minimise the level of silent calls made from our call centres".

"We shall continue, in conjunction with Ofcom, to monitor the performance of our call centres to ensure future compliance."

Crackdown

Under the 2003 Communications Act, Ofcom can fine a company up to 5,000 for each contravention of the regulations.

"If Ofcom finds that there are multiple contraventions, Ofcom may seek to impose the maximum fine for those contraventions, particularly in the event of substantial and repeated breaches," an Ofcom spokesman said.

"We will be doing everything in our powers to crack down on this because we feel it's a very serious issue."

Ofcom says the total number of silent calls made by telemarketing firms in the UK is "unquantifiable".

However, it says BT gets about 160,000 silent call complaints each month, while Ofcom itself has received more than 150 complaints a month since the start of the year.


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