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Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Ofcom's trickery is extended

From: David Hickson – Stop Silent Calls campaigner

Following media coverage of the trick referred to in my release "Ofcom's Halloween trick, a treat for Silent Callers", Ofcom denies the suggestion that its new rules will mean more Silent Calls.

See these contradictory items –

'Silent calls' to increase after Ofcom changes rules - Telegraph
A change to Ofcom rules should further reduce the amount of silent calls suffered by consumers - Ofcom

Arguments about whether Silent Callers will make "more" or "less" Silent Calls are not really the key issue. Ofcom should be focussed exclusively on stopping the practice altogether. As it has chosen to try to tweak around with the rules that allow up to 3% of the total number made being Silent Calls, I am however prepared to engage on this point.

I maintain that the rule change will lead to an increase in the number of unnecessary Silent Calls for the following reasons:
  • Answering Machine Detection technology (AMD) is an inevitable cause of Silent Calls.
    Many in the contact centre industry refuse to use it, and join me in campaigning for its use to be banned, for this reason. (I can provide contacts and references.) Whatever its merits, any tolerance of AMD is a tolerance of Silent Calls.
  • Increasing the time before an agent is connected means more Silent Calls.
    The delay before a message has to be played when no agent is available obviously applies to every call, including those where an agent is available to speak to a live person.
    This makes every call potentially sound like a Silent Call. The longer the delay, the more likely this is.
  • When AMD is used the first two seconds of the recipient's greeting are now guaranteed not to be heard by the calling agent.
    Failure to respond promptly to the greeting not only damages the quality of the conversation that may follow.
    It is likely to lead to the (correct) assumption that there is nobody listening at the other end – a Silent Call.
  • When AMD is not used callers still have two seconds in which to connect an agent (or message).
    That time is considered sufficient for 1) obtaining an adequate sound sample, 2) processing it and 3) completing the appropriate connection.
    It must be far more than is necessary for those not using AMD, who only have to perform the third of these steps.

Ofcom's statutory duty is to prevent and penalise "persistent misuse of the telephone network" (habitually making Silent Calls), whenever it is made aware of it.

It is not only wrong for Ofcom to seek to get Silent Calls to reduce the number of Silent Calls that they make by regulation, it has no authority to impose and enforce general regulations on users of the telephone anyway. The powers can only be applied in particular cases.

It is now more than 12 months since anyone was made subject to use of the powers.
Ofcom shows no sign of being ready to fulfil its duty to parliament – expressed when the previous increase to the maximum penalty was granted (on 28 March 2006) as follows -

"We expect you to use your powers to eradicate the nuisance of Silent Calls".

Until Ofcom is ready to obey "rules" made by parliament, parliament must not grant it another increase to the penalty used against those who fail to follow its "rules".

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