The growing problem of nuisance calls is going to be tackled by Ofcom, the telecoms regulator has announced today.

Abandoned and silent calls often cause considerable concern and annoyance, but the majority of these aren't from pranksters; they're usually caused by technology used by marketing, research and debt companies.

Ofcom has today announced a number of ways to tackle the problem:

  • Working with the industry to trace companies behind nuisance calls where they try to hide their identity, and to look at ways to prevent such calls.
  • Along with the Information Commissioner's Office, it will write to businesses which make calls in the UK warning them they need to abide by Ofcom's rules, or face fines of up to £2 million.
  • Commissioning research to help understand the frequency of the different types of nuisance calls and the companies and sectors generating them.

Abandoned calls occur when a company uses an automated dialling system to phone customers. If there are no staff available to handle calls, consumers will hear an automated message from the company.

Silent calls occur when a call is ended by the company because the technology wrongly thinks it was picked up by a voicemail service.

Big six energy provider Npower was fined £60,000 by Ofcom last month for making too many nuisance calls (see the Npower fined MSE News story), while telecoms provider TalkTalk is currently under investigation.

Dodgy calls up

Ofcom research also published today suggests that during a six-month period in 2012, almost half (47%) of all adults with a landline experienced a silent call, up from a quarter (24%) in 2011.

Over the same six-month period, almost three-quarters (71%) of landline customers said they received a live marketing call, while 63% received a recorded marketing message.

Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director, says: "Nuisance calls can cause annoyance, inconvenience and anxiety to consumers."