Ofcom lays down rules on silent calls

Ofcom.gifOfcom has issued new guidelines on silent calls after the number of consumers complaining about the practise more than trebled in a year. The media regulator says that more consumers are contacting it about silent calls and fixed-line mis-selling than any other telecoms issue.

From September 2007 to September 2008, the number of consumer complaints about silent calls received by Ofcom has increased from around 300 per month to around 1,050 per month. During the same time period it received 1,050 complaints about fixed line selling, up from 800 a year earlier. The figures are revealed in its annual consumer experience report, published today (November 24).

Ofcom will consult on existing sales and marketing rules in early 2009, with the aim of tightening current restrictions, and has issued advice for consumers who are victims of silent calls and slamming, where telephone service been switched without permission.

It has also opened a programme of enforcement over silent calls, where a consumer may receive a call from a dead line due to automated systems and lack of call handlers. Ofcom says it has recently taken action against companies including Abbey and Barclaycard.

However, Ofcom says that “real progress” has been made in the number of complaints from consumers that are unable to switch broadband provider. Those complaining about mobile cashback deals have also been reduced.

Earlier this month, an Ofcom investigation also revealed Phones4U had breached consumer protection laws by omitting details to customers about mobile phone plans and network coverage. It was also found to have “unfair terms” on its handset return policy.

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