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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 05:19 GMT 06:19 UK
Cutting off those silent calls
telephone handset
Who's on the line?
Receiving a silent phone call at home can be extremely disturbing - particularly if you're elderly or you live alone.

Many people believe such calls are from burglars, trying to find out whether there's anyone at home.

But the reality is much more prosaic: most silent calls are made by tele-marketing companies.

They use an automated dialler to ring hundreds of households simultaneously. But, because they only have a limited number of staff to pick up when the phone is answered, the rest of the calls are silent.

What you told Breakfast
I put the handset beside the radio rather than hang up It's good fun listening to them on the hands free when they are waitng for me to speak.
Peter Thornhill, Devon
I used to work for a telemarketing company ..It was really upsetting when people just hung up or were rude. I had to make an absurd amount of calls and hit an hourly target.
Sarah Pearson, Northampton

And these sort of switchboards often don't give out any return number, if you dial 1471.

Over the past few months, Breakfast has been looking at what you can do to prevent silent phone calls (there's more advice below)

Now it looks as though campaigners may have come up with a solution.

The Direct Marketing Association, which regulates tele-sales companies, is changing its code of practice.

In future, if there's no salesperson available, the company will have to leave an automated message, stating clearly who rang and why - and that there's no need to ring back.

  • We talked to Lib Dem MP John Hemming and Robert Dirskovski of the Direct Marketing Association.

  • We also want to hear what you think

    How to stop silent calls

    There are already several ways to stop silent calls and other forms of tele-sales:

  • Register with the Telephone Preference Service. This is run by the Direct Marketing Association, which promises that its member companies won't bother you once you've registered.

    This service is completely free - but it won't necessarily stop calls made from countries in the developing world.

    Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
    DMA House, 70 Margaret Street
    London W1W 8SS
    Telephone: 0845 0700707

    Make sure you follow the correct link, rather using a search engine: there are bogus Telephone Preference Service websites, which charge users for their "service".

  • BT Privacy. This offers you free caller display and the chance to register with the Telephone Preference Service.

    You may need to upgrade your phone for caller display - and BT reserves the right for its own staff to ring you with news of offers.

    The basic package is free - although there are charges for additional features, such as automatically blocking anonymous calls.

  • Finally, if you find tele-marketing calls disturbing or annoying, be very careful about which companies you give your phone number to.

    If you're applying for a catalogue, filling out a questionnaire or entering a competition, you may be asked whether your details can be used for marketing purposes.

    If you don't like cold calling, you should say no.

  • Have you been plagued by silent calls? Do you have any tips for dealing with them. You can use this form to e-mail the Breakfast team direct

    Your E-mail address
    Where you live

    The BBC may edit your comments and not all emails will be published. Your comments may be published on any BBC media worldwide.

    Silent calls
    Breakfast's Graham Satchell explains how the new system works

    The menace of silent calls
    Graham Satchell reporting

    BBC Breakfast


    Silent calls: Ofcom investigates
    17 Jun 05 |  Breakfast
    Tracing the silent callers
    15 Jun 05 |  Breakfast
    Silencing the silent calls
    05 May 05 |  Breakfast
    How to stop silent phone calls
    07 Nov 03 |  Breakfast
    Your Comments
    10 Dec 04 |  Breakfast

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