DAVID HICKSON's SILENT CALLS BULLETIN

4 March 2007

I have today formerly retired from my campaigning efforts.

I will however retain a passing interest in the topic and will be pleased to receive messages.

Victory

The objective of the campaign has been for Ofcom to use its powers against those making Silent Calls.

On 30 January 2007, Ofcom announced that it had imposed financial penalties on all four of the companies subject to Notifications on 3 November 2006.

I can no longer say that Ofcom has never used its powers. It has addressed the wrong targets in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, however I would not wish to be unrealistic in my expectations.

As I write this, Ofcom has still not published the details of the section 130 penalty notices. It has therefore not been possible to comment in full, nor to promote the publicity that this action requires, as its effect must be primarily as a deterrent to others.

Recent Developments

Unreliable Answering Machine Detection equipment

The issue of Silent Calls caused by (invariably unreliable) Answering Machine Detection is warming up.

A recent press release covered the decision by a major UK call centre to stop using AMD because it causes Silent Calls. The great news is that this company found that its agents were more effective without it, contrary to what it had expected.

This demonstrates that Ofcom's stated belief that use of AMD is "responsible use of automated calling systems" and should be tolerated in the context of "rules to protect consumers from Silent Calls" is not only totally wrong and improper, it is also misguided.

House of Lords Committee on Regulators

I have also discovered that an ad hoc House of Lords Select Committee is looking at the way in which Ofcom and the other statutory regulators operate.

I have made representations asking for the vital issue of Ofcom's two distinct and potentially conflicting principal duties to a) citizens, and, b) consumers in relevant markets, to be covered. As I only learned of this enquiry after the submission deadline had passed I could not formally present evidence.

The difference between "citizens" and "consumers" is significant for public bodies to a greater extent than is commonly recognised. This arises from the legacy of Thatcher, where the "public interest" is seen as nothing more than what can be detected in the behavior of "consumers of public services", and "value for money" is the only "value" worthy of consideration.

My concern about this fundamental issue has been underlying my campaigning efforts, as Ofcom has frequently demonstrated its failure to understand its duty to citizens properly. One example is found in the quotation in the previous point above.

Finishing the story

When I have the time, I will try to sort out this mass of bulletins into some coherent story. I am open to offers from anyone who wants my assistance in putting the story together for publication in any medium.

Contact

Please contact me for advice, information or anything else at:

Silent {dot} Calls @ ntlworld {dot} com

David Hickson