Ofcom has today revised its policy on Silent Calls to include a further formal tolerance of Silent Calls - see this press release.
6,600 complaints about Silent Calls in 2009, 6,800 in 2010 and 22 secret investigations recently conducted by Ofcom has led to not one company being found to be practising Persistent Misuse of a Telecommunications Network or Service, under the terms of Ofcom's policy of tolerance.
Ofcom's policy already permits call centres to make as many Silent Calls as they wish, so long as they make enough non-Silent calls on the same day (the "3% rule"). It now says that the Silent Calls which inevitably result from use of obsolete note Answering Machine Detection technology are OK, but must be spread around different people on any one day.
These "new rules" mean that the 2 Million people who Ofcom believe are subject to repeat Silent Calls will now have to wait at least 24 hours after receiving one Silent Call from a company before they receive the next from that company. One Silent Call per day is fine, but two in a day from the same company may cause a penalty of £2 Million pounds to be imposed.
THIS IS COMPLETE NONSENSE. It has nothing to do with Ofcom meeting the expectations of parliament, expressed in 2006 as "we expect you to use your powers to eradicate the nuisance of Silent Calls". In 2010, parliament expressed the wish for more about this matter to be explained to the public.
I ask Ofcom to explain to the public:
· Why were all of these complaints found not to warrant even a single Notification of Misuse, let alone a penalty?
· Who are these 22 companies that Ofcom has permitted to continue making Silent Calls under its policy of tolerance?
· If Ofcom is happy for 2 Million people to continue to suffer Silent Calls caused by failed use of Answering Machine Detection (although now spread out over a longer period), how many suffer Silent Calls as a result of the 3% rule?
· Can we please have an open debate about why Ofcom thinks that any Silent Calls are "necessary" and should be tolerated?
It is perfectly possible for the call centre industry to continue to be productive and effective without making Silent Calls. By tolerating Silent Calls, Ofcom is not only damaging the interests of citizens, it is also damaging the reputation of an industry on which many people rely for work.
Please contact me for further comment and details of why Silent Calls are not only unacceptable, but also unnecessary.
Ofcom dismisses the argument that we should now recognise mechanical Answering Machines are now less common than use of network based Answering Services. The industry should be encouraged to move over to totally reliable Answering Service Detection (ASD) in place of AMD. Many leading players have already abandoned AMD becuase they believe that it diminishes their cost effectiveness (as well as inevitably causing Silent Calls).