British media and telecoms regulator Ofcom has acted in response to growing consumer concern and anger at the increasing volume of 'silent calls' - automated calls made by outbound telemarketers.

Such calls, regarded by consumers at best as irritants and at worst as sinister, are caused by computer-controlled automatic diallers that initiate more calls than human call centre staff can handle.

The new rules further tighten the requirements imposed on telemarketers. They include three key requirements:

  1. Abandoned call rates must be below 3% of all calls made in any 24-hour period for each campaign. Ofcom believes that setting an enforceable 3% limit will significantly reduce the volume of abandoned calls, while allowing the legitimate and responsible use of automated calling systems.

  2. All abandoned calls must carry a short recorded information message identifying the source of the call.

  3. Caller line identification must be included on all outbound calls generated by automated systems. CLI allows people to dial 1471 and access the telephone number of the person or organisation calling them.
Government trade and industry secretary Alan Johnson describes such calls as "annoying and distressing". Following a period of consultation by Ofcom, Johnson has acted: "I am increasing the maximum penalty to deter companies that make these nuisance calls," he said.

The maximum penalty, currently £5,000 ($8.74k; €7.34k) for each infringement, will be increased later this year to £50,000.

Data sourced from BBC Online and Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff