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Tuesday, 1 June 2010

New Ofcom "rules" on Silent Calls

From: David Hickson – Stop Silent Calls Campaigner

At a time when radical changes to Ofcom’s powers are shortly to be discussed by parliament, which should expect an equally radical change in policy, Ofcom has made the most extraordinary announcement - Ofcom sets out new rules to tackle repeat silent calls.

This statement is a total disgrace.

A formal consultation is be wasted on some minor tinkering with rules that Ofcom does not even have the statutory powers to impose.

A thorough overhaul of Ofcom’s admittedly failed approach is essential for it to make a case to parliament for the granting of a massively increased penalty – we expect the final stage required for the implementation of this previously announced change to be attempted shortly.

By behaving as if such minor tinkering (and further confirmation that Silent Calls are tolerated) were somehow relevant at this time, Ofcom proves that it has totally missed the point.

If the government tries to get parliament to approve the increase to the maximum penalty, as requested by Ofcom, I will campaign furiously for the request to be thrown back to Ofcom with a demand to think again.

When parliament previously granted Ofcom an increase to the maximum penalty, it came with the clear expression of concern and the demand ...

“We expect you to use your powers to eradicate the nuisance of Silent Calls”. (Hansard link / Audio Link)

In the four years that have passed since that expectation was placed on Ofcom, it has not even attempted to meet its very clear demand. The very terms of the proposed changes indicate that Ofcom is still focussed on regulation rather than eradication. They address the way in which Ofcom actually tolerates Silent Calls and how it will deal with those it knows to be making them, allowing them to continue in the practice. Ofcom cannot be expected to catch and penalise every Silent Caller, but for it to knowingly allow the practice to continue is simply intolerable.

Are we really keen for someone to get a £2 million penalty, not for making Silent Calls, but for making two automated calls to an answerphone in 24 hrs? Ofcom permits the first, but is consulting on its proposal to ban the second.

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