/ Technology

Making a noise about silent phone calls

Phone off the hook

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?

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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6 calls today 4 International, 1 Unavailable & 1 Witheld. 4 of which were in the evening, the latest being 20:53 None answered and not one left a message.

Peter Gordon says:
10 months 19 days ago

Daily I receive at least five calls. I am out so it could be more. There are just two rings and it stops. 1471 reveals nothing and my call monitor just states “external”. When I pick up the phone there is just the dialling tone.

Rosemary S Banks says:
9 months 2 days ago

I get at least half a dozen calls a day.they’re all from same number and are all silent they’re probably computer generated. I’ve reported to Oncoming and Silent guard and the TPS Service makes no difference am going away for 3 months so they can call all they want!!

Rosemary S Banks says:
9 months 2 days ago

Oncoming should read Ofcom.

Martyn Williams says:
9 months 2 days ago

What I do is play them at their own game:

Say hello, hello, when some one answers and asks are you Mr or Mrs so and so, say yes…….. they then go into their sales patter, it is at this stage I leave the call connected, but I go and do something else, returning to the phone after I have done my chore, I then pick the phone back up and say hello. 9 times out of 10 they have disconnected the call, if they happen to still be on the line just say mmmm that sounds good and repeat the above. its great fun


if you are with Talk Talk’ you can receive a number from them which you can dial after each nuisance call, this barres that number from calling you again. I think you can do that with 10 numbers,