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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

At last, the call centre industry wants to stop making Silent Calls - but a government minister says they are OK

Stop Silent Calls campaigner David Hickson has offered his strong support for the "Love the Beep" campaign launched by Richard Woollaston of Altitude Software, call centre technology provider, at www.lovethebeep.org.uk.

This campaign aims to replace the obsolete and ineffective Answering Machine Detection technology (AMD), which is probably the major cause of Silent Calls, with Answering Service Detection (ASD) technology. The campaign proposes that callers who only wish to speak to a person should use a detectable beep provided by answering services as the basis for deciding whether or not to hang up. This is so much better than the present method used by many call centres, which involves inviting the recipient to provide a brief sample of their voice to a piece of technology, which will guess as to whether it is live or recorded before decided whether to connect an agent or hang up in silence. (The invitation is not generally announced and consent is assumed.)

Ofcom continues to approve and support the use of this old technology which was designed to detect the clicks and whirrs of mechanical answering machines. This inevitably mistakes real people for answering services and subjects them to Silent Calls. Ofcom describes this as being innovative, and in the public interest, and will therefore be shortly changing its "rules" on Silent Calls to explicitly permit one a day from each caller to each victim.

David Hickson comments: "I have always wondered why the call centre industry has not been looking for an effective way of detecting Answering Services. I cannot understand why it persists in focussing on Answering Machines, which are never used on mobiles and rarely now on landlines. I am delighted that it has at last made progress and look forward to hearing which companies will now stop making Silent Calls using the old technology, despite having acquired Ofcom's approval.

"I fully support this campaign and want to identify which answering service providers, call centres and users of 'outbound' services do not. Perhaps Ofcom will eventually change its mind and stop approving of Silent Calls, and started treating them as the ‘persistent misuse of a telecommunications network or service’ which most of us think them to be. ...

Government minister says 30,000 Silent Calls from a political party is OK

"I wonder if making 'a million calls in the run up' to the General Election using Altitude systems (as reported at this link) resulted in many Silent Calls. Compliance with the Ofcom policy would have allowed up to 30,000."

It may be of significance that during a recent debate in parliament, a government minister confirmed that he agreed with the Ofcom tolerance of 3% of calls resulting in silence. (Refer to Clip2 at this link.) Apparently he would have been happy for a political party to have recently made 30,000 Silent Calls, with no fear of action by Ofcom.

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