Making a noise about silent phone calls

by , Policy Advisor Technology 8 January 2013
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Ofcom today announced an action plan to tackle nuisance phone calls, and specifically silent or abandoned calls. Do you often pick up the phone to phantom, silent callers?

Phone off the hook

Nuisance calls – it’s an issue hundreds of you have told us is a problem, and we’re busily working behind-the-scenes on the issue. For example, last year we wrote to Ofcom, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the body that runs the Telephone Preference Service, to step up efforts to stop nuisance calls.

Ofcom’s research has shown that during a six-month period in 2012, 47% of all adults received a silent call on their landline. That’s up from just 24% in 2011! We’ve chatted a lot about nuisance marketing and scam calls here on Which? Convo, but we’ve been a bit silent on the issue of abandoned or silent calls. And they can definitely be annoying, if not unsettling if you get lots of them.

Silent calls are usually down to call centres using automated dialling equipment, which generate more calls than they have staff to deal with. So, if you pick up before a call centre operator is available to actually take the call, all you’ll hear on the end of the line is cold, hard silence.

Ofcom’s plan to tackle silent and abandoned calls

Ofcom’s action plan suggests commissioning new research to understand the frequency of nuisance calls; working with the industry to track down companies behind nuisance calls; and ongoing enforcement action with fines of up to £2m.

According to Ofcom’s rules, no more than 3% of a company’s calls in one day can be abandoned. To that effect, Ofcom ruled in 2012 that the number of abandoned calls made by HomeServe exceeded an acceptable call rate limit and issued the company with a fine of £750,000. Npower was also fined £60,000 by Ofcom for abandoning too many calls, and TalkTalk is still under investigation.

However, Ofcom’s main responsibility in this area is to tackle silent and abandoned calls. Ofcom doesn’t have the power to take enforcement action against companies making marketing calls – this is the ICO’s role. There’s definitely good reason to tackle the bigger picture, as 71% of landline customers said they received a live marketing call in the same six-month period that 47% said they had received a silent call.

So, although today’s announcement is a welcome initiative by Ofcom for silent calls, we want to hear something similar from the ICO.

I’ve personally never received a silent call, but I imagine it must be quite frightening to get one, especially if you’re home alone. Have you ever answered the phone to find silence on the other end of the line?

Have you ever suffered from silent phone calls?

Yes (95%, 2,008 Votes)

No (5%, 96 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,115

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69 comments

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Jen

I’ve had so many cold calls that I now don’t bother to answer the phone, I just let it go to the answerphone. Many are silent and many are recorded messages, these are amusing when my answerphone kicks in, they talk to each other! It’s been many years since I have been able to use the phone as it was intended to be used.

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john mccolgan

I absolutely agree Jen, I do the self same thing. Infact my BT landline is so rarely used now (incoming and outgoing) that I’m starting to question if I actually need it. A fuuny quirk of the BT contract however is I must make 2 calls per month otherwise I have to pay a financial penalty. These calls can be non-chargeable by being included in my calling plan. Strange.

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banjo

This last few week I’ve been plagued by silent calls from insurance company RIAS. When they finally deigned to speak to me I gave them a mouthful and told them to remove from their lists. Hope it works.

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Tony C

If the call was silent how do you know it was RIAS? If have had as many as 6 silent calls in a day – it is really annoying as well as those doingso called “surveys” and similar activities.

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wavechange

If a company does not withhold their number, just do a Google search and you will find that someone has managed to identify the caller.

I have not had any cold or silent calls from insurance companies since registering with the TPS.

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banjo

Read my post. It says, “When they finally deigned to speak to me”, after about twenty silent calls over a week they said who they were. Gives the game away. The number on caller ID was 08005610725.

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Bob

Some calls aren’t silent for long, but they’re still annoying. It’s like answering the door to somebody who just stares at you for a few seconds before they say why they knocked on your door.

I got so many nuisance calls (slient or otherwise) that I bought a blocking device. I only know of two on the market:
* Trucall (about £100)
* CPR (about £50)
I bought the latter and it works very well. I set it to block ‘Unavailable’ calls and it blocks about one a day. So there’s no technical reason preventing BT doing what the gadget does.

Can the people at ‘Which’ find out why BT will block many types of call but not the type used most often by spammers to conceal their number (i.e. ‘Unavailable’).

No silent calls. My home number is pretty new so nobody really knows it yet.

But an aside on the subject of unavailable numbers, my parents, since changing away from BT, now come up as ‘unknown’. They’re definitely NOT silent calls! I wonder how these blocking devices work to not block genuine calls from unknown or unavailable numbers?

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Bob

Jo Gibney wrote:
>”I wonder how these blocking devices work to not block genuine calls
>from unknown or unavailable numbers?”

I set the device to block ‘Unavailable’ calls. I’ve never had a genuine call from ‘Unavailable’ and I don’t believe I ever will. I’m sure the same applies to your calls.

I set the device to *allow* ‘Withheld’ calls. I have many calls that are ‘Withheld’.

You mention the term ‘Unknown’. I’ve also seen the term ‘Private’. These terms are sometimes put on the display. They’re really just other words for ‘Unavailable’ and ‘Withheld’ or a combination of both. I suspect your parents calls are ‘Withheld’ or possibly ‘International’ but it appears on your phone as ‘Unknown’.

Don’t take my word for it, there’s plenty of stuff online explaining it. Hopefully somebody from ‘Which’ will investigate these devices. Or you could call up the manufacturer at:
http://www.cprcallblocker.com/index.html
(I’m nothing to do with the company, just a satisfied user)

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william

I find not saying anything when I answer the phone turns most calls into silent calls ( and by now anyone who knows me, knows that they MUST speak first).

And if they are silly enough not to hide their number then a quick couple of minutes filling in the form on http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/marketing.aspx at least makes me feel a little better, although I’m sure nothing will come from it.

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william

Since my last post I’ve had 3 silent calls.

I fear Ofcom/ICO have done so little for so long that whatever they end up with want help. I’m also concerned about the wording of their proposal , as it seems to give open season to anyone initiatinga call from outside the UK.

“Ofcom will write to businesses making calls in the UK warning them of the requirement that they abide by Ofcom’s rules on silent and abandoned calls.”

Taken from : http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2013/01/action-plan-to-tackle-nuisance-calls/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=consumerexperience

I just spoke to Ofcom and they said that if a UK company is using a call centre based outside the UK they still bound by Ofcom’s rules. However, Ofcom does not have jurisdiction over companies that operate from outside the UK and do not have a UK presence. Ofcom is working to encourage BT to improve the transparency of calls coming in from overseas businesses.

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Scrumpydog

As it happens I reported an incessant string of nuisance calls to Ofcom only yesterday. A combination of ‘silent calls’, a call centre agent demanding proof of identity (yeah right) or pretending they can’t hear you when you answer. I made it 55 calls in 2 weeks, anytime between 9am and 8.30pm. The caller was Santander Cards (who operate a store card unwittingly taken out by my partner, who bitterly regrets it).

It took a personal visit to a branch of Santander to sort the matter out and put a stop to the harassment. My tip is beware of stores offering the classic “10% extra off if you take out our card today” and beware in particular of Santander Cards.

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john mccolgan

I simply will not deal with any company linked to Santander. My thanks to Which for all the information about the various banks helped me to arrive at this decision. Scrumpydog’s experience augments my decision

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Eyelid

Santander seems to be hopelessly disorganised at banking, I had a whole lot of problems before I dumped my account with them, the most irritating being an inability to have any sort of fruitful communication with them. If I had 55 calls in two weeks from them after my experience, that would be rich. I would certainly have a few things to say to them……

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Ally

oooh Santander not on my good list too, but getting a bit off topic if not careful!

I too am fed up with ALL cold calls be they silent, ‘windows technical’, energy saving, ‘surveys’, PPI claiming etc. etc.

It’s long overdue that the regulator, preference service and phone service providers (what? lose money??) take effective action to totally stop these calls be they from UK or foreign sources. It’s got to the stage where we should just make them all illegal and for the phone line providers ( by force if necessary) automatically track these calls (it’s certainly not impossible with modern technology) and have it as a condition that reported numbers, once verified, are barred altogether.

It is not just a problem in the UK but is now widespread.

I am not frail or particularly elderly but know some people who are really frightened by them.

Any action will not totally prevent them but we should criminalise the activity and go all out to effectively eliminate the problem at source. For that real teeth are required not a voluntary code of conduct!

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william

The TPS should certainly up their frames of reference. I certainly don’t want any phone calls that I haven’t asked for or from companies I already do business with about specific account related topics and not disguised calls as sales calls.

The TPS, OFCOM and the ICO need to be merged to have a single place to complain through unlike the current this type of call you complain to one , that type you complain to someone else.

None of that helps the end user, and only helps the companies that play fast and loss with the rules.

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Laskarina

I also receive some silent calls. I also receive quite a few ‘information’ calls plus the overseas calls after my money. I am on the TPS list but it doesn’t seem to work very well. Over the last two weeks we have had more than four a day mixture. As I run a business from home I feel obliged to answer all calls.

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Steve Morgan

I work from home and have been plagued with interruptions to my working day (almost always while I’m on a call with someone else).

Being a techie, I have been looking for ages for an automated solution to the problem. I looked at the TrueCall nuisance call blocker, but it doesn’t offer the autonomy that I wanted.

Instead, I used a Raspberry Pi, a fantastic £25 computer, to put together my own telephone handling system. If a call is received from a withheld, unavailable or international number, the caller gets a message saying that “We don’t accept calls from blocked or international numbers” and are given the option to leave a message, just in case it’s a genuine call. The phones don’t ring and I’m not disturbed.

For those nuisance callers that do have an associated number, I add them to a blacklist or the system can automatically check with an external list of nuisance callers. If one of these calls, they hear a message that “this number is not in service” and the system hangs up. Again, the phones don’t ring and I’m not disturbed.

Only calls from a recognisable phone number that isn’t on my blacklist gets through. The volume of calls that come through has dropped by in excess of 90%.

It means that I get to decide what kind of calls I want and what I don’t, rather than relying on the whims of my telephone provider.

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Bob

So we have call blocker gadgets like:
Trucall (£100)
CPR (£50)
Raspberry Pi (£25)
These can block ‘Unavailable’ calls – most nuisance callers are of this type.

BT blocking services (Choose to Refuse, Anonymous call reject) cost £94.20 per year. But BT won’t block ‘Unavailable’ calls.

Please ‘Which’, can you investigate why BT doesn’t provide a service to block ‘Unavailable’ calls?

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Justin

I get more marketing calls since I signed up to the TPS than before, most of them not in my name. Never happened before the TPS though.

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Sue

We receive silent calls at least once a week showing the number 00000000000000 – don’t know how long it goes on for! Then come the sales calls, always from a person with an asian accent – don’t know if from UK or abroad. Anyway have recently taken the decision to check the number first and if zeros not to answer the call and so far haven’t had a sales call. Surely in the 21st century with all the technology that we have someone can come up with a simple solution to stop this persecution!

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Angela

I find that the silent call nuisance runs in phases so I have several days where I receive a lot of them (between 5 and 10 a day) and then they stop – it really is infuriating. I also suffer from a huge plague of recorded marketing calls especially for PPI claims (I have never had a loan or outstanding credit card balance during the time when this scheme was in existence). I have 3 different phone numbers at my house- 2 are with BT and 1 with Virgin and they are all as bad even though I signed up to the TPS some years ago!

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Michael Ironmonger

It seems that every day we get ‘Out of Area’ or International inspite of suscribing to the TPS. As we have caller indentify service we can at least ignore them and let our answer machine take over. As I understand it TPS does not apply to ‘Out of Area or International’ calls. It’s about time that it did.

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Mike the bellringer

Along similar lines to William, I find it strange that in order to report nuisance calls to the TPS, this is done via the ICO. Despite being registered with TPS, we frequently receive unwanted calls from UK companies (we have caller display) most frequently about debt resolution and PPI and almost always recorded messages (although we had a “live” one from the Liverpool area recently offering to service our vacuum cleaner). We occasionally receive silent calls from non-UK numbers (but could be via Skype?) which appear as “unavailable” or “out of area” depending on the phone being used but we are also get a number of “boiler room” scam calls. Many of these use my last Christian name (which I don’t) which fortunately is a complete give away especially after a warning from the FSA that this name was on a list being used by scammers. We cannot block unavailable numbers as we occasionally receive calls from my brother-in-law who lives in Canada.
I am now making a point of reporting all unsolicited UK calls where the numbers is displayed to ICO.

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Bob

Mike the bellringer wrote:
************************************
“We cannot block unavailable numbers as we occasionally receive calls from my brother-in-law who lives in Canada.”
************************************

Calls from Canada and USA should only ever be:
* Number shown (the first part of the number may be missing)
* International
* Withheld
It’s very unlikely to be ‘Unavailable’. If you see ‘Unavailable’ then there’s you need to get a handset that can decode the information better, or he’s with a very dodgy phone company.

You can complain directly to the TPS, but you will need to know the phone number of the caller. If you don’t know the number, it’s best to complain to the ICO. The TPS complaints site is: https://complaints.tpsonline.org.uk/Consumer/

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Robert C

It is high time the law was changed so that companies cannot hide their number – as a minimum they should show their head office number, and the head office have to accept that they are responsible for their sales staff and the calls they make, even in a branch office. What reputable sales organisation does not want to be contacted?

What is the point of the data protection registrar saying they will follow up issues if you tell them the number of the offender, when the offender can hide their identity?

I fear that the telephone companies make too much money out of telesales to be interested in helping to stop unwanted sales calls (assuming TPS has been used)

According to Ofcom rules, call centres operating in the UK or calling consumers on behalf of UK businesses are required to present a number which will allow a return call to be made (and subsequently answered by the business who has made the original call). We would be interested to hear from anyone who has had a call from a call centre who withheld their number and we can share this information with Ofcom. It would be helpful, where possible, to provide the time and date of the call, the number on which the call was received, as well as the company providing your telephony service. Feel free to post on here or email through to: http://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/

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william

@caitlin, Does this rule state actually call centres? I had a call from a division of my bank the other day, from their office and so not a call centre, And they withheld their number. The poor operator got very upset with me when I refused to confirm my details before she could prove she was ringing from were she claimed to be ringing from. If they hadn’t “blocked” their number I could have avoided this, although I know some companies certainly ringing from oversea can spoof numbers.

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Sandra

Makes me so cross! I now answer International calls with a stoney silence and unless they are family or friends I have silence at the other end until the line goes dead!
Unavailable ones I don’t answer! Unfortunately Witheld can mean the Doctors surgery, police or hospital so I have to answer them. TPS doesn’t work been on their list for years!

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terfar

MANDATORY CALLER ID would be a good start. Make BT programme their exchanges to reject calls without an ID. Get OFCOM to make it illegal for false ID tagging and get the government to crack the whip to make OFCOM do their job

Historically, OFCOM has been a useless QUANGO: it’s time for a change.

PS before all those objectors against caller id start howling, tell me how many of you write a letter without including your address?

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Justin

Actually agree with this, what is the reason to hide your address. At my company for the phones that shouldnt recieve direct calls we put reception, so unless you are trying to do something dodgy, is there any legit reason for withholding?

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william

The only reason I can think any genuine company ( and I say that tongue in check knowing what I’m about to write) wanting to hide their number is so that you don’t get to know a cheaper number than the expensive service numbers they like to use.

A doctors office hiding its number, what is the point. How many people ring their doctors to make appointments and therefore know it already? So 99.9% of people would already know a number. Madness.

I’m all in favour of blocking any call from a business ( regardless of type ) that isn’t showing a genuine phone number and not silly numbers like 000000000000 .

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wavechange

I have been using caller display since before most people even heard of it, long before I had any problem with unwanted calls. The problem of withheld numbers and private numbers has always been a mystery to me.

I get calls from organisations that withhold their phone numbers. The callers usually don’t have any idea of why this is done but I get the impression that there is a genuine need for this. I know one organisation that expects all incoming calls to go through their switchboard rather than direct to the who I might judge to be the most relevant person.

Even if the caller’s number is not displayed, it would be useful to have some information about which organisation has called.

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Bob

wavechange wrote:
********************************
I get calls from organisations that withhold their phone numbers. …

Even if the caller’s number is not displayed, it would be useful to have some information about which organisation has called.
********************************

The key phrase is:
‘Presentation number’.

Do a web search:
site:ofcom.org.uk presentation-number

Also search the newsgroup ‘uk.telecom’:
https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!searchin/uk.telecom/presentation$20number

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terfar

These companies have their own private exchanges and they can programme them to display the number they want people to use. They leave them blank,witheld or use all zeros because they don’t want you to call them or because they don’t want to be identified.

There’s absolutely no reason in the 21st Century for anonymity other than crooked practises. It should be stopped at the top level.

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wavechange

terfar

You are right in saying that organisations can choose what we get to see via caller display. My former employer, a university, routinely withheld numbers except during clearing.

I have recently had calls from a local government office, a large charitable trust, and a consumer organisation. Sorry, but I don’t think any of them are involved in ‘crooked practices’, and all called me because I had provided my phone number. I don’t know why their organisations choose not to release their number via caller display.

What about all the people who are ex-directory? I wish everyone was listed in the directory but I’m sure that some have reasons not to be included.

I wonder if it should be made legal to record unsolicited phone calls. “This call may be recorded as evidence that you have ignored the fact that I am registered with the Telephone Preference Service”. :-)

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Bob

wavechange wrote:
>I wonder if it should be made legal to record unsolicited phone calls.

It already is legal.

****************************************
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/archive/oftel/consumer/advice/faqs/prvfaq3.htm
Can I record telephone conversations on my home phone?

Yes. The relevant law, RIPA, does not prohibit individuals from recording their own communications provided that the recording is for their own use. Recording or monitoring are only prohibited where some of the contents of the communication – which can be a phone conversation or an e-mail – are made available to a third party, ie someone who was neither the caller or sender nor the intended recipient of the original communication. For further information see the Home Office website where RIPA is posted.

Do I have to let people know that I intend to record their telephone conversations with me?

No, provided you are not intending to make the contents of the communication available to a third party. If you are you will need the consent of the person you are recording.
****************************************

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wavechange

Thanks Bob. I see that I can record a conversation for personal use but not pass on the recording. That could be useful to produce an accurate report about scam calls.

I wonder whether it would be legal to record the discussion after announcing that the conversation would be recorded – in the same way that many companies and organisations do for staff training and other declared purposes.

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Terry Farrell

Interesting that there are ‘laws’ about recording phone calls. Does this cover Skype because I usually record Skype calls if they are business calls?

And how does this fit in with the government’s proposals to make central recordings of ALL phone calls and email traffic?

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Bob

wavechange wrote:
******************************
I wonder whether it would be legal to record the discussion after announcing that the conversation would be recorded – in the same way that many companies and organisations do for staff training and other declared purposes.
******************************

Yes that would be legal. If one person is aware then it’s legal.

If both people are aware then it may be possible to pass on the recording to third parties without further notice. Either party has the option to cease the call or choose what to reveal. That would seem to be legal to me but I can’t confirm it.

Terry Farrell wrote:
>Does this cover Skype because I usually record Skype calls if they are business calls?

The law covers ‘communication’. Recording Skype calls is legal as long as one party is aware. It doesn’t matter if it’s business or private.

>And how does this fit in with the government’s proposals to make central recordings
>of ALL phone calls and email traffic?

Recording communication (voice calls, text, email) without the consent of either party is covered by different laws or different sections of the same laws (current or proposed). As you would expect.

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william

“And how does this fit in with the government’s proposals to make central recordings of ALL phone calls and email traffic?”

I think you’ll find that they’ve watered that down to only holding details of date time from and to and not actual content. To record actual content would require other laws e.g. anti terrorism. iirc e&oe

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Terry Farrell

@William

I think I may support the proposed logging of all calls as long as the government releases the information on request so that we are able to follow up silent and unsolicited calls to take legal action.

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Louise

As well as receiving these type of calls on my landline I have had the odd one to my mobile phone. Unfortunately whilst I was abroad I received 3 recorded message type calls to my mobile. I didn’t answer the calls but because my voicemail cut in I still had to pay for receiving them. This had never occurred to me, but in future I will turn off my voicemail when leaving the UK. If my family need me they will have to text instead!

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Brian in Newry

Unfortunately I have given up on having anyone do anything to help me stop these calls. I now resort to not answering numbers I don’t recognise, “caller ID withheld” and “out-of-area” calls. I feel I have no other option.

I hope I don’t regret not answering an important call some day!

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Robin

Was getting loads of silent calls from Virgin Media. I am a Virgin Media customer already so called up and gave the poor girl at the end of the phone earache. The calls have now stopped.

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Geoff

I’m 86 and I don’t go out much. Our BT telephones have Caller Display so before I pick up the receiver I check to see whether it shows a known name or International or Withheld. If the latter, I let it ring a few times otherwise the line is dead. I don’t announce our phone number. I just say ‘Hello’. When the caller starts to talk I wait to hear what they are selling. My favourite is the person trying to interest me in grants for insulation. I say, ‘Before you go any further, let me tell you that we had cavity wall insulation installed by ICI in 1976. That’s probably before you were born. And we have more loft insulation than you can imagine. Goodbye.’

Occasionally, a Withheld number can be important. We have had Withheld messages from government departments. They should reveal their identity to avoid people ignoring their messages.

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jayprime

It should be totally illegal for companies to make calls with their own phone number with-held!!
If the call has no way of identifying the caller then there is no way to make a complaint about the company!!
The type of call I most commonly get rings, possibly only twice or three time rings, then cuts off. If you do manage to get there before it cuts off then the phone is obviously ‘live’ but no-one speaks and the call is terminated 3 to 5 seconds later. If you then do ’1471′ you get “You were called at —-. We do not have the callers number.”
I did markedly reduce the number of calls – on one occasion when the phone was obviously ‘live’ I blew a strong blast from a dog whistle down the mouthpiece!
On the very odd occasion when someone actually spoke I asked for “Your full name, the name of your Company and the phone number.”
I was asked why I wanted the information and I replied “Since you have made an unsolicited call to this number, which is Registered with the Telephone Preference Service, you have broken UK Law and the authorities will want the information so that they can contact you.”
Funnily enough they immediately rang off, without giving the info and, so far, have not rung again.
Incidentally, our phone is programmed to not accept calls without the callers number, so those that get through are either from abroad or from a non-BT network.

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Mike the bellringer

My “dodgy” landline provider is BT and my brother-in-law’s Canadian number was not displayed last time he called. Of course his own phone could be using an id blocking device just as we can set up using 141 etc in the UK.
It used to be the case that where calls were made from an extension line routed through a company’s computerised exchange, the number did not display. I presume this was for technical reasons rather anything more Machiavellian. Whether this is still so, I don’t know.

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Bob

Mike the bellringer wrote:
>… my brother-in-law’s Canadian number was not displayed last time he called.
>Of course his own phone could be using an id blocking device
>just as we can set up using 141 etc in the UK.

It’s partly a terminology issue.
* ‘Withheld’ = the user has chosen to hide the number
* ‘International’ = the number is from another country
* ‘Available’ = the network knows the number and can show it
* ‘Unavailable’ = the network doesn’t know the number

In your earlier comment, you used the term ‘Unavailable’. That makes perfect sense in plain english i.e. the number wasn’t available to you, but it seemed unlikely to be in the telecom technical category called ‘Unavailable’. We can rule out ‘Available’ because you didn’t see the number. It could be ‘Withheld’, as you suggest, but I suspect it’s been designated ‘International’ by BT. There’s no technical reason or regulation why calls from Canada, USA, or Europe, should show as ‘International’, it’s just a BT business decision. The mobile phone networks frequently show international numbers.

In summary, if it is ‘International’ or ‘Withheld’, then you will be able to block ‘Unavailable’ calls to filter out nuisance calls without blocking your brother.

Mike the bellringer wrote:
>It used to be the case that where calls were made from an extension line routed through
>a company’s computerised exchange, the number did not display. I presume this was
>for technical reasons rather anything more Machiavellian.

It’s a well-known and well-discussed issue in telecoms. See my reply to wavechange above. The key phrase is ‘presentation number’.

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Sandra

In my earlier post I said my Doctors surgery calls are withheld. I don’t use their expensive 084 number and its only the Doctor that ever rings me. When my husband was in hospital for 9 weeks it was a nightmare finding a withheld on my phone. Totally unacceptable.

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william

@Sandra, According to http://conversation.which.co.uk/money/gps-using-expensive-0844-phone-numbers/

doctors should have stopped using 084 numbers a few years ago.

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Alan

We are in our late 70′s and are very annoyed by nuisance telephone calls. As an example, we had an anonymous call at 03.00 completely disturbing our sleep. I processed a complaint and after several months had a message to say that neither OFCOM or the ICO can take any action. So why do they exist? We have been registered with TPS for many years but the nuisance calls keep increasing! I think that TPS, OFCOM and the ICO should be ceased immediately and BT made responsible for any nuisance call. They surely have the technology to stop these calls. If the calls do not stop soon we shall change provider and possibly just use a secure mobile phone. Just making it illegal for any company or person to call without giving their number would be a help, and we all need the help!

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Alan R

This started off as a complaint about “silent” calls. Companies are allowed to make 3% “silent” calls. Why are they allowed to make any calls that they cannot complete immediately the ‘phone is answered?

As many others are saying, why should calls be allowed to be made without the callers proper number being shown?

Two simple matters that would cut the problem significantly. It seems too difficult for the powers that be to do what the majority of the population want!

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Steve Morgan

“Companies are allowed to make 3% “silent” calls. Why are they allowed to make any calls that they cannot complete immediately the ‘phone is answered?”

The calls are made automatically using something called a predictive dialer. The dialer is supposed to predict when someone at the calling end will be available to handle the call that it is placing. When you answer the call, it is immediately patched through to an available operator. The problem is that, as with all predictions, it may be wrong and there may not be an operator available when you pick up. Hence, the silence.

Regulations allow a certain percentage of calls to be silent, because it is recognised that such a system is imperfect and this is likely to happen. 3% is too high, however; it should be no higher than 1%, in my opinion.

As recipients, we can help. If, on answering an unsolicited call, we all shout “Oh, do f* off!” and slam the phone down, the operators will have far more time on their hands to handle the ones that would otherwise be silent.

Alternatively, we could all try keeping the operators on the phone for ages, sending the percentage of silent calls up over the 3% threshold, hopefully leading to the companies being fined :-)

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william

They must be pretty poorly programmed and tested then. Answering the phone and saying nothing doesn’t seem to trigger the transfer to an operator.

Yet automated sales type calls, if the let the phone ring 5 times you’ve missed about 5 secs of the message as they seem to start playing it as soon as the dialling process has ended regardless of whether the phone is still ringing or not.

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Steve Morgan

I think you misunderstand, William. The problem is that the dialer predicts when there will be an operator available to take another call. Because it can’t predict it accurately (because it doesn’t know how long all of the current conversations are going to take, or who needs to go to the toilet, for example), it sometimes gets it wrong. It would transfer the call to an operator, if there was an operator that wasn’t talking to somebody else. That’s not poor programming or testing; it’s imperfect prediction, combined with the fact that companies try to sweat the last second of talk-time out of their call centre staff.

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Terry Farrell

@Steve

3% is far too high, which probably explains all the problems we are getting.

Let’s make a few reasonable assumptions about a ‘cold’ calling centre with 100 operators. Each makes 10 calls per hour (probably quite low as most will be eff off replies) in an 8-hour day. That’s 10*8*100=8,000 calls per day. 3% of that total is 266 permitted silent calls per day. Over a 45 week year that’s 54,000 silent calls from one calling centre.

Is it any wonder that so many are getting hit with silent calls? This should be banned immediately. It is perfectly simple to change the programming so that a SINGLE new call is initiated as soon as an available operator ends a call. Just because the recipient is not home and they have to wait for so many rings before ending the attempted call is tough on the call centre. It will dramatically increase the overheads of the call centre but why should we suffer?

What they actually do it to call several numbers simultaneously (more than free operators) and as calls are answered they are put through to the each operator in turn. The other calls continue to ring and if there’s no operator available to answer, they become the problem silent calls. The number of simultaneous calls initiated depends on the number of operators that are indicated as free at any point in time.

The algorithm they use makes sure that there are sufficient calls being initiated at any time to avoid having idle operators. It’s a dynamic algorithm that responds to the number of operators on duty and the realtime average call time, so there are always calls being initiated and thus there are ALWAYS silent calls in progress.

It’s just totally unacceptable and again proves to us that OFCOM is totally useless and out of touch with telecoms.

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Steve Morgan

@Terry,

I completely agree that it’s unacceptable from our perspective, as the recipients of such calls; just like it’s unacceptable for us to endure these unsolicited calls at all.

I suppose part of Ofcom’s problem is that, for all the bitching and whining that the general public does, the harder they clamp down on the perpetrators, the more bitching and whining they’ll get from the industry. They’d claim that Ofcom were making it impossible to do business in the UK and then sod off to the sub-continent where they wouldn’t be regulated at all.

And I bet, in general, the public rolls over and takes it, whereas the industry would be up in arms.

I don’t think we’re ever going to see regulation against the use of predictive dialers; that ship sailed long ago. They should never have been legal in the first place. The best we could expect is to see the maximum percentage of silent calls reduced a bit.

But more importantly, Ofcom need to use the powers that they have to actively penalise the companies that break the rules; not just the odd ‘landmark’ case, but as a matter of course.

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John Harris

I too frequently receive these calls, sometimes several in a week. I also receive many cold and scam calls. I am registered with the Telephone preference service, but it only seems to have a limited effect.

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sandy

feed up with silent/nuisance calls is an under statement. i’ve got a phone that i can bar numbers but unfortunately not “out of area” or “international” so i just don’t answer them now.

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Matt Petre

I now get at least two silent calls per week. I hate it and feel powerless.

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Matt Petre

To back up my posting I am sorry to say that not only do we receive these silent calls but
also calls from people mostly with an Asian dialect claiming to be called Sara or John.They tell me of
PPI claims i could make.A waste of time and never followed up.

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glenaim

i assume that bt make a lot of money from these nuisance calls,either if you have them or dont-£94 a year to avoid some is disgusting.with everything in the business world the only way to hurt them is financial-i can guarantee that if it cost a company more money to upset a person,whether a customer of theirs or not,for instance if for every call they made they generated on average say£5,if they were charged £6,the calls would stop overnight!this would also stop all poor servive from any company,if it cost them more than they could make by anti customer ,and abhorrent anti consumer behaviour.

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Sandra

Although I belong to the TPS it doesn’t seem to work! Twice in under a week I have had two unsolicited calls from a company called Money Savers. The first caller hung up on me, so rude! However the second was very apologetic and said she would remove my number from their data base. At least I have their number so I can ignore it if they ring again!

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Kay

We have recently received approx. 4 silent calls per day, sometimes ringing long enough for the answerphone to kick in, other times hanging up before it kicks in. As this often occurs between 5 and 8pm, we do not answer the phone but wait for ‘friends’ to speak, then pick their calls up. They are used to it now. Calls that appear as ‘Unknown’ or ‘Private’ number may be from extensions on an exchange where the settings are for the number not to be displayed. Another point – why are companies allowed to buy phone lists? One thing is certain, our Private numbers are not!!

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Muriel Wilkins

Phone rang this morning when I was hanging clothes on the line in the garden. Was expecting a call from the Doctor as my husband was ill and we had to call an ambulance in the night. I rushed indoors, to the phone, only to be met with silence.
Both my husband and I are over eighty, and he is not well.
We do not need and cannot cope with an incident such as this. The phone should be free of these calls to be available for important calls- ie. medical.

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Martyn Williams

I have today and yesterday asked my telephone provider for help in stopping these irritating landline phone calls form UNAVAILABLE numbers I have caller display, but none the less it is still extremely irritating, they say that they are unable to help (PLUSNET) I am also registered with TPS, but these calls are still getting through, in this day and age of digital communications, there must be a way of stopping these annoying, irritating nuisance calls from being received to any given landline on request from the customer. I am sick and tired of no one being able to help or willing to help, may be the service provider is getting paid to allow these calls

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