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Barclaycard issued with maximum fine for silent calls to customers

Communications regulator Ofcom has fined Barclaycard £50,000, the maximum amount possible, for breaching its rules on silent and abandoned calls.

Ofcom investigated Barclaycard from 1st October 2006 to 10th May 2007 and found that it had made an extremely high number of silent calls where the people receiving the calls had no method of knowing who had made them. The investigation also found that some of Barclaycard’s call centres had no procedures in place to prevent people receiving repeated abandoned calls over a short period of time.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: “Taken as a whole this is the most serious case of persistent misuse by making silent and abandoned calls that Ofcom has ever investigated. Had we not been limited by the statutory maximum, we would have imposed a larger financial penalty to reflect this misuse”.

Ofcom said such calls were not usually malicious and occur when automated systems in call centres generate more calls than staff can deal with, meaning that customers are met with silence when they answer the phone.

Barclaycard, which has 10 million customers in the UK, said in a statement that it did not dispute Ofcom's findings and apologised to its customers.

"Many of these calls were made with the intention of bringing potentially fraudulent activity to the attention of the card holder," Barclaycard said in a statement.

"Nevertheless, we recognise that all calls, irrespective of the purpose, should be made in the right way and we accept that our processes, in place at the time of the review by Ofcom, were inadequate."

Barclaycard said it had made "robust and lasting changes" to its processes.

Ofcom published its rules on silent calls in 2006, which only allows 3% of any call centre's live calls made in any 24 hour period to be abandoned.

All calls from automated calling systems must also allow people to dial 1471 to find the telephone number of the person or organisation calling them.

In March high street bank Abbey was fined £30,000 for exceeding the permitted level of abandoned calls and last year Carphone Warehouse received a £35,000 penalty.