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Last updated at 14:31 BST, Friday, 23 October 2009

Silent phone calls

Summary

23 October 2009

When you pick up a ringing phone and hear silence at the other end, it can be frightening. However, most of these calls are made not by villains but by computers at call centres. Now in the UK such centres could be fined up to £2m for causing distress.

Reporter:
Gavin Ramjaun

Despite previous attempts to tackle this, almost half of the UK still receives silent phone calls

Despite attempts to stop this, almost half of the UK's population still receives silent phone calls

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Report

It's an annoying thing many households have to put up with - answering the phone to find nobody on the other end of the line. They are often from a company's call centre which uses automatic dialling in the hope of selling you something. But if there aren't enough staff on hand to speak, the call into your home stays silent.

Industry regulator, Ofcom, says it's a breach of their guidelines for businesses who make persistent unwanted phone calls. And now those caught breaking the law could face fines of £2m.

Kevin Brennan, Consumer Affairs Minister: 'It is still a real problem, despite the raising of fines that have gone on in the past. Last year, Ofcom did a survey and found that half of people that they surveyed said that it was a real nuisance to them.'

David Hickson, campaigner: 'We don't know how much of a deterrent it will be. The point is that the action point of Ofcom should be to stop people from making silent calls, not just to penalise them.'

Despite previous attempts to tackle this, almost half of the UK still receives silent phone calls. So officials will hope the threat of a bigger fine can help stamp it out.

Gavin Ramjaun, BBC News

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Vocabulary

to put up with

to accept something even though you are not happy about it, to be forced to tolerate

automatic dialling

when a computerised device, called a predictive dialler, is used by call centres to phone a lot of people in one go

staff on hand

company employees available

a breach of their guidelines

when their official recommendations are broken

caught

here, noticed or reported

a real nuisance

annoying and/or irritating them a great deal

how much of a deterrent

how effective in preventing silent calls

to penalise

to punish for breaking a law

to tackle

to deal with/resolve

stamp it out

if you stamp something out, you put an end to it/eradicate it