By Claire West

Firms which pester consumers with silent and abandoned calls will be fined up to £2million from tomorrow under new Government legislation.

The new fine is 40 times larger than the previous maximum limit of £50,000. The intention of the penalty is to send a clear message that businesses must abide by the rules or face serious consequences.

Silent calls are generated when call centres use predictive dialling systems to call more numbers than there is staff available to speak to the person who answers.

Ofcom will now have the power to use the fine to penalise and deter firms from persistently making these calls.

Minister for Communications, Ed Vaizey, said:

“Silent calls are incredibly unnerving, particularly for the elderly and those who live alone. Government will not stand by and let firms plague consumers without consequence which is why we have made the maximum penalty for silent calls 40 times larger to reflect the seriousness of the issue.

“Ofcom can now put this fine into action in the most serious of cases and they will also work with us to ensure consumers know where to get help if they are a victim of persistent silent and abandoned calls.”

The penalty has been applied through an amendment to the Communication Act 2003 and will also be applicable to cases including for example:

* number scanning

* withholding calling line identification facilities

* abusing systems for dishonest gain

* misusing allocated telephone numbers