David Hickson's Media Releases

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Monday, 31 January 2011

New "rules" for when to make Silent Calls (is this a joke?)

To follow this briefing, I react to Ofcom's news release - Ofcom warns industry as new silent calls rules come into force.

The point about the “warning” is that Ofcom is asking Silent Callers to comply with rules about how many Silent Calls they make and when they make them.

Ofcom is not saying that habitually hanging up in silence is unacceptable.

Not one of the 9,000 complaints to Ofcom from citizens receiving Silent Calls in 2010, nor of the 6,600 received in 2009, enabled Ofcom to identify even one company that was breaking its rules. 22 unnamed companies have been investigated – not one was found to be practising “persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service”.

The new rules that will be applied from tomorrow add tolerance of one Silent Call per caller per recipient per day, when obsolete technology designed to detect the clicks and whirrs of a mechanical answering machine mistakes a person for a machine.

This newly formalised tolerance of use of Answering Machine Detection fails to address the fact that every call when this is used begins with a possibly lengthy period of silence, whilst the technology samples and analyses your voice to see if you sound like a machine. Even though an agent was eventually going to speak, many assume these to be Silent Calls.

The existing tolerance of up to 3 in every 100 calls resulting in silence if no agent is available to handle an answered call that has been dialled automatically remains. Ofcom has a "guideline" that such calls should be handled by a live message announcing the name of the caller and apologising for the error, but this is not applied as an absolute requirement.

Rather than using its powers to act whenever it is made aware of a "persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service", Ofcom fudges the issue by pretending to have regulatory powers and showing a tolerance (albeit qualified) of Silent Calls.

Silent Calls are unnecessary and unacceptable; Ofcom's policy is unacceptable.

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