David Hickson's Silent Calls Victim Blog

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Friday, 23 July 2010

An immodest proposal

I have today issued a media release < Ofcom - the "useless Quango" - Silent Calls - the Big Society - I propose a radical solution > today; it is circulated to many interested parties well beyond the media.

It provide an update on the latest situation and conclude with a proposal for how, under the terms of the "Big Society", the problem with a Quango not doing its job properly should be addressed. I offer my services in setting up and serving in a citizen-driven social enterprise to fulfil the statutory duty that Ofcom fails to perform.

The draft of the proposal is repeated below. I await reaction with interest.

If Ofcom, behaving as a useless Quango, cannot be seen to be willing or able to serve the interests of citizens by using the statutory powers it has been given, then these powers must be handed to an alternative agency that both can and will. These powers, which only allow for intervention in specific cases in the general public interest, are quite separate from Ofcom's role as the statutory regulator of the activities of broadcasters and telecommunications service providers in the interests of their consumers.

The “persistent misuse” powers were only given to Ofcom on its formation as an afterthought, without being discussed in parliament, when it was discovered that a gap in the new telecoms regime would otherwise arise. Unlike most of Ofcom’s other duties they do not involve control of the activities of the Communications Industry, but of those who (mis)use its services.

In the spirit of the "Big Society", I would be very happy to assist with, and serve in, a newly created citizen-driven agency to take on this, apparently unwanted, role from Ofcom and to exercise the statutory powers which Ofcom prefers not to use. As with PhonePay Plus or TPS for example, this work could be undertaken independently, but exercising Ofcom’s statutory powers on a sub-contracted basis.

I am quite sure that the funding which Ofcom has misdirected into the unnecessary and improper refinement of a wholly misguided policy could be used to better purposes. Revenue from properly imposed penalties would be equivalent to far more than operating costs for as long as the problem remained – thus helping to address the public debt. There are many positive minded people in the Call Centre Industry, who are anxious to protect its reputation, and they would doubtless be happy to contribute their energies and knowledge to such a social enterprise. I would be delighted to work with them and all others of goodwill in a spirit of public service.

I offer this proposal for publication and for consideration in all quarters.

I will continue to promote this idea and be delighted to interact with all those who wish to discuss how it may be more clearly formulated and brought to fruition.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The House of Lords discusses Silent Calls

The proposal by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to increase the maximum penalty available to Ofcom, in connection with its powers to act against persistent misuse of a telecommunications network or service, to £2 Million pounds has to be discussed and approved by both Houses of Parliament.

The discussion in the Commons will (almost certainly) not take place until after the Summer recess, as the committee to do this has not yet been appointed.

The discussion in the Lords, and the inevitable approval took place on 21 July - see Hansard.

The peers who contributed were not properly briefed and so had little grasp of the issues. Key facts about the long history of Ofcom's failure to address the problem of Silent Calls were not mentioned, the nature of the relevant powers was misrepresented both in a technical and a practical sense by the Minister and other contributors had clearly misunderstood what is actually addressed by the powers.

As so often with this issue, anyone is ready to support action that seems to be doing something about unwanted telephone calls. Ofcom trades heavily on this natural support for whatever it may propose, to gain approval for its wholly wrong and improper approach to the issue.

When MPs come to discuss this proposed increase, and implicit endorsement of Ofcom's policy, they will be most throughly briefed and lobbied.

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