Photo of John Hemming

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what recent steps the Department has taken to prevent silent telephone calls by commercial power diallers; and if the Department will support a policy of introducing recorded messages to inform recipients of silent telephone calls of what has happened.

Photo of Alun Michael

Alun Michael (Minister of State (State (Industry and the Regions)), Department of Trade and Industry; Cardiff South and Penarth, Labour)

The Department introduced the Telephone Preference Service scheme, under the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1999, which provides protection to subscribers from unsolicited direct marketing calls. Although the Telephone Preference Service was not designed to provide a solution to silent calls, consumers who register receive significantly fewer marketing calls, including silent calls that are made by commercial power diallers. Marketing calls are the only calls which are eliminated by registering for this service.

The Communications Act 2003 confers powers on the Office of Communications (Ofcom) to regulate forms of behaviour, which fall within the Act's definition of persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service. Silent calls made by commercial power diallers are an example of behaviour, which might represent persistent misuse. Ofcom took action against two companies on 30 April 2004, which were found to have generated unacceptably high levels of unsolicited silent calls. Ofcom initiated a second investigation into one of the companies to ascertain whether the company is complying with the undertakings that were given following their initial action. In addition, Ofcom has launched an investigation into a further seven companies, whom they suspect were making silent calls.

The Department is in discussions with Ofcom about providing a solution to silent calls and in particular a policy of introducing recorded messages to inform recipients of silent calls of what has happened. We will carefully consider all aspects of this possible solution.

Annotations

Peter Swithinbank
Posted on 27 Jul 2005 10:58 pm (Report this annotation)

I am now receiving a significant number of unsolicited calls from overseas, which, I was advised by the BT operator, are not regulated by the Telephone Preference Service. I checked up on one of the callers and I found out the caller was a UK registered telecommunications supplier which had obviously chosen to flout the spirit as well as the rule of the TPS by originating the call from India.

Silent Calls Victim
Posted on 28 Jul 2005 3:49 am (Report this annotation)

Peter

Is it Toucan or One-Tel? They both call me regularly from overseas.

The person you spoke to at BT was not quite on the ball here. Some sympathy is due, as the regulatory structures in this area are very complex.

There are many overseas companies, with no UK presence, who cause this type of nuisance and are indeed beyond the jurisdiction of the regulators.

In your case the UK telecommunications suppliers are caught in three different ways, even if they make the calls from offshore.

1. If you are registered with the TPS they are breaching regulation 21 of the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations 2003.

You should complain, not to the TPS company, but to the Office of the Information Commissioner - compliance@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Demand that they take action in respect of what is likley to be a systemic flaw in the companies' procedures, rather than a slip that caused them to call your number by mistake. Simply getting them not to call you again does not completely solve the problem.

2. As they will undoubtedly be using an automated dialler they are engaged in activity that will result in some Silent Calls and are therefore liable to action by Ofcom for "persistent misuse of a telecommunications network". (This applies regardless of whether the person being called is registered with the TPS).

This is what is covered by the question and the reply from Mr Michael.

Toucan are one of the seven companies currently being investigated by Ofcom. There is no reason why your reports could not be added to the files which Ofcom have on many companies - contact@ofcom.org.uk

3. In addition to its general responsibilities for persistent misuse by anyone, Ofcom has special responsibility for regulating all aspects of the sales activities of telecommunications suppliers.

By calling someone registered with the TPS they have breached a mandatory condition of their Code of Practice on mis-selling. Normally this would be reported to the company and resolved using an "Alternative Dispute Resolution" procedure handled by another company. As you are not actually a customer you cannot follow this route and so you should report this to Ofcom - contact@ofcom.org.uk.

I doubt that the person you spoke to in the BT call centre would have all of this information at their fingertips.

For lots on the campaign against Silent Calls and other related nuisance please visit http://www.users.waitrose.com/~SilentCalls/

David

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