What are silent calls?

telephone keupadWhen the phone rings and you pick up the receiver to hear silence at the other end, you may fear the worst.

Silent calls can be concerning but, in the vast majority of cases, they are not malicious. In fact they’re often the work of a machine (called a predictive dialler) used by call centres to phone large numbers of people in one go.

Predictive diallers are used for selling products, for market research, by companies wishing to get in contact with their customers (such as a bank or a utility) and by debt collection agencies and many other types of companies who make outbound calls.

They work by calling phone numbers automatically, then connecting the dialled number to a call centre agent once the consumer answers the phone. Unfortunately, if all of the call centre agents are busy when the phone is answered, there will be no-one free to answer the call. As a result, you may simply hear silence.

You may also hear silence as a result of a technical error. This occurs when technology associated with predictive diallers attempts to filter out calls made to answer machines.

When this technology incorrectly determines that an answer machine has picked up a call when in fact it was answered by someone, it can disconnect a call without the person who answered the call hearing anything.

Even if people know there is nothing to fear, the fact remains that silent calls are very disruptive and irritating. They can also be illegal, particularly if a company is making large numbers of silent calls.

Ofcom is determined to take action against companies who break the law.

Click here to learn more about what we're doing to tackle silent calls

Watch our video about silent calls