Ofcom has today fined TalkTalk £750,000 for making "excessive" numbers of silent and abandoned calls to potential customers.
In a strongly-worded indictment of the behaviour of two of the phone company's call operators in 2011, Ofcom – the communications regulator – said TalkTalk was guilty of a "persistent misuse" of such calls, adding that the fine should send a strong message to other providers.
An abandoned call is when a call is made but when the person answers the phone, the caller hangs up. A silent call is when the person answers and is greeted by only silence.
Ofcom says abandoned calls must include a recorded information message that says who has called them and how they can opt out of future calls. It says the abandoned and silent calls can be the result of answer machine detection (AMD) technology by call centres, which is designed to filter out calls answer machines pick up so sales agents can spend more time on live calls.
The regulator found TalkTalk made about 9,000 silent and abandoned calls to consumers in just under two months in 2011.
Ofcom's consumer group director Claudio Pollack said: "Silent and abandoned calls can cause annoyance and distress to consumers. Companies must abide by the law and Ofcom's policies. If they fail to do so then Ofcom will take firm action.
"Today's penalty sends out a strong message to organisations using call centres that they must comply or face the consequences."
TalkTalk has not yet responded to a request for comment.