Ofcom has been given the power to fine companies that allow computer-controlled telecommunications systems to generate "silent" telephone calls up to £2m.
MPs approved an order increasing the maximum fine from £50,000 in a bid to deter companies from persistently allowing automated calling systems to generate more calls than there are human agents to take them up when they are answered, or fail to play taped messages to reassure recipients.
Ofcom requested the increased penalty after a serious case in which "an extremely large number" of silent calls were made over an eight-month period and it was only able to impose a £50,000 penalty.
It was last increased from just £5,000 in 2006.
The majority of responses to a consultation ending last January felt the current limit failed to reflect the harm to consumers of silent and abandoned calls, which can cause significant anxiety to vulnerable consumers, especially the elderly living alone, who may fear a call is from a potential burglar checking whether anyone is at home.
The technology is used by debt collection agencies and marketing companies.
Ofcom guidelines require silent calls to be limited to three per cent of all live calls, a brief information message must be played if no agent is available, line identification information must be available and calls must not be repeated for 24 hours.
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