John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Thursday, December 01, 2005
  Taxman makes 300,000 nuisance calls a year
A written parliamentary question by Silent Calls Campaigning MP John Hemming has revealed the shock fact that the government is making at least 300,000 nuisance calls a year.

"After trying to pretend they didn't use predictive dialling, they finally admitted on Tuesday that the taxman made 7.5 million calls in 2004/5 using a predictive dialler. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) code called for a limit of 5% of these to be silent, nuisance calls. It is clear that the taxman made at least 300,000 (4%) nuisance calls in 2004/5. The government claim that 'Full information is not available on the number of calls where contact was made but operators were not available' that is because they do not want to admit that they contribute to the many millions of times that people are disrupted and caused anxiety by 'silent calls'." said John Hemming

"Ofcom produced new guidelines on 31st October, but the tax man is still "considering" Ofcom's guidelines. It is quite clear that the taxman is responsible for "persistent nuisance" and could be liable to fines of £50,000. A fine of £50,000 (the new rate) for each of the 300,000 calls would be fifteen billion pounds. I am surprised that the taxman believes that following the law is optional. "

"The point about the Inland Revenue, however, is that registering under the telephone preference service does not prevent the revenue phoning you and making silent calls."

John Hemming has also written to a charity that is still making silent calls. "I had a charity referred to me that was making silent calls recently. It would be unfair to mention which charity, but I have written to them to ask them to stop doing so. It is quite clear that a message can be played to remove the major anxiety that is caused by silent calls. I am not sure what Ofcom are doing to enforce their code, but my team of campaigners are monitoring the situation and will continue campaigning until Silent calls stop."

ENDS

Note for editors
The question should appear on the online version of hansard soon.

The figure of 300,000 is estimated at 4% of the number of calls made. The government are avoiding answering the question as to precisely how many silent calls were made claiming that they don't have "full information".

The Direct Marketing Association's code used to say that a limit of 5% of silent calls should be made. Ofcom on 31 Oct reduced this to 3% dropped calls and banned silent calls. The fine of £50,000 did not apply for financial year 2004/5 it was at that time £5,000. In any event it would be unlikely that a fiine would be issued for each call although it is arguable that it could. In any event as soon as a fine of £50,000 was issued for a couple of calls they would stop making silent calls. It is, however, an arguable case if a mite exaggerated.

The first question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer elicited the response "The treasury does not use predictive diallers", so the question was asked again.
 
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