What is Ofcom doing about silent calls?

Woman receiving silent callIn February 2011 Ofcom introduced new rules to prevent consumers being harassed by repeat silent calls.

Where consumers have complained to Ofcom about silent calls – and told us how often they are receiving these calls – over 70% say that they have received two or more calls in a day from the same company. These silent calls were often over a period of days or even weeks.

Ofcom believes that this is mainly due to technology used by call centre operators to detect answer machines.

This technology can mistake a ‘live’ consumer for an answering machine and cut off the call without the person hearing anything, resulting in a silent call.

Repeated calls

Silent calls can cause significant distress to consumers which can be made worse by receiving these calls repeatedly, leading to some people believing they are being specifically targeted.

The new rules prevent a company using answer machine detection equipment more than once a day, unless a call centre agent is on hand to answer the call.

This would mean that consumers currently worst affected should no longer receive repeat silent calls over the course of a day.

Ofcom will continue to monitor complaints about silent and abandoned calls and expects to see an overall reduction in harm as providers stop these practices.

Ofcom will also continue with its programme of enforcement and may take action against companies found to be in breach of the rules.

Ofcom has previously fined nine companies for making silent and abandoned calls and fined one company the then maximum £50,000 in September 2008.

In September 2010 Parliament approved an increase in the maximum financial penalty available to Ofcom to use to combat silent and abandoned calls, from £50,000 to £2 million.

Ofcom intends to use the full extent of the new financial penalty if appropriate

Tell Ofcom

If you’ve received a silent call we’d like to hear from you.

While Ofcom cannot respond to all consumers personally, the information you give us is used to identify trends and can lead to us investigating a particular company’s behaviour.

Although in most instances we will not require further information, we may approach you directly should more detail be required.

Ofcom also speaks to phone companies regularly. The data we collect from them about silent calls also helps us decide whether an investigation is required.

I want to complain about a silent call

Malicious silent calls

The vast majority of silent calls are caused by companies using ‘predictive diallers’ to make large volumes of calls.

However, If you believe you are receiving silent calls as a result of someone purposely trying to cause you anxiety, you should report this to the police.


We have a guide containing help and advice about silent calls.