COMPANIES which use automated telephone calls that make silent calls can now be fined up to £2 million.
The calls often occur when firms dial several numbers at once but fail to pick up when a call is answered.
Ofcom said more than 9,000 complaints were made about silent calls last year and more than 70 per cent of victims said they received two or more calls a day from the same company.
The telecoms watchdog has fined nine businesses for making such calls, with Barclaycard receiving the biggest penalty allowed under the old rules of £50,000.
Ofcom said it would not hesitate to impose the new £2m maximum fine.
Many cases of silent calls were a result of the technology used to detect answer machines failing to recognise a “live” consumer and cutting off the call before a representative of the company is connected to speak to them.
Although the use of automated systems will not be banned, companies have been told to employ such practices more carefully.
Ofcom said silent calls could cause “significant distress” to consumers, which could be made worse by getting such calls repeatedly.
Chief executive Ed Richards said: “Ofcom has given sufficient warnings to companies about silent calls and is ready to take appropriate action against those companies who continue to break the rules.”