A Warwickshire debt-collecting firm has been fined £36,000 by communications regulator Ofcom for making silent calls to customers.

Equidebt, in Wellesbourne, was investigated by the regulator as part of a routine check on firms using specialised automated calling systems.

The firm was fined for persistent misuse of an electronic communications network.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “These sort of calls can cause distress to people, especially the elderly. Silent calls can be very frightening, particularly for people who live alone.

“In the vast majority of cases, these silent calls are not made by pranksters, burglars or stalkers. In fact they’re the work of a machine, called a predictive dialler, used by call centres to phone large numbers of people.

“Ofcom is taking steps to help reduce the number of silent calls generated by predictive diallers by requiring companies that use these machines to play a recorded message on abandoned calls - this ruling came into effect in March 2006.

“We also encourage anyone who experiences them to get in touch with us.”

Those targeted were consumers who owed money to clients represented by the firm.

The company was monitored for 150 days and was found to be breaching the Communications Act for 105 of those days.

Following the investigation, Ofcom has decided to extend its programme of monitoring and enforcement for a further six months.

Equidebt was established in February 1992 and is a dedicated debt collections agency for banking and financial services.

In a recent survey of the UK’s top 260 debt collection agencies, it was ranked within the top five best trading partners.

No one from the company was available for comment.