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If the Phone-paid Services Authority investigates your service

The Phone-paid Services Authority looks at phone-paid services that may be operating non-compliantly with the Code of Practice. Depending on the issues it identifies, the PSA may decide to give a provider the opportunity to bring its service in line with the Code or, in more serious cases, it might open a full investigation.

Requests for information

There are a number of reasons why the teams within the PSA may contact a Level 1 (L1) or Level 2 (L2) provider for information regarding the promotion, operation or content of a premium rate service. See the Supporting Procedures as to when we will contact a L1 or L2 provider after receiving a complaint or initiating an investigation.

Initial stage

In most cases, where it is practical to do so, the PSA Contact Assessment Team will informally notify a provider of any initial concerns they may have. Upon receiving such notification, we expect responsible providers to take appropriate action to remedy any concerns, which may include seeking and acting upon compliance advice, and/or providing refunds to affected consumers.

If providers do take remedial action, we recommend that they provide evidence to the Phone-paid Services Authority that they have done so. If the evidence is sufficient and there are no other concerns identified, no further action may then be necessary.

Please note that any issues may become more serious if a provider fails to co-operate with the PSA.

Investigations

Where necessary, we may look to investigate any issues further. When deciding how best to investigate a service, we will consider the allocation criteria set out in the Supporting Procedures. These include the seriousness of any apparent breaches, whether the provider has taken effective steps to remedy any consumer harm and ensure that the service does not still have potential to cause harm, the breach history of the provider, and the level of cooperation we consider is likely to be received from the provider.

In appropriate cases, including where our investigations indicate that an apparent breach of the Code has caused little or no consumer harm or offence to the general public, the PSA may in its discretion use the Track 1 procedure. For more details about the Track 1 procedure, please see paragraph 4.4 of the Code and paragraphs 59 to 62 of the Supporting Procedures.

In these cases, we will:

  • Contact the provider and inform it of the apparent breach of the Code;
  • Agree an action plan with the provider to remedy the apparent breach(es) of the Code identified and prevent repetition; and
  • Require the provider to demonstrate to the Phone-paid Services Authority that the action plan has been implemented.

For more serious cases, we will follow the Track 2 procedure and:

  • ask a provider to respond to a formal Warning Notice that sets out the provision of the Code which, on the evidence, appears to have been breached and sets out recommendations for appropriate sanctions; and
  • refer the case to a Tribunal to consider whether or not there has been a breach of the Code, and if so, what sanctions to impose. The Tribunal is made up of three members of the Code Adjudication Panel (CAP).
Urgent matters

The PSA has a range of powers in the Code which it can use at any point during the course of an investigation before any formal adjudication of potential breaches of the Code. The powers include directing suspension of a service (where for instance there is a serious risk of harm to consumers if urgent corrective action is not taken), and directing that service revenue be withheld (where for instance there is evidence that a provider will not comply with any financial sanction that may be imposed in due course). These are known as ‘interim measures’. The decision to impose interim measures is made by a Tribunal.

If interim measures are considered to be appropriate, the PSA will follow the relevant procedures as set out in paragraph 4.6 of the Code.  

Tribunal decisions

If a Tribunal decides a provider has breached the Code, it can impose one or more of the following sanctions as are appropriate and proportionate:

  • issue a reprimand and/or warning;
  • order a provider to give refunds to some or all consumers;
  • impose a fine – up to a maximum of £250,000 per breach of the Code;
  • bar access to the service;
  • require a provider to remedy the breach of the Code;
  • require a provider to obtain compliance advice or permission to run a service;
  • require a provider to submit to an audit of the service; and/or
  • ban a provider or individuals associated with the provider from running some or all premium rate services.

The PSA will impose administrative charges towards the costs incurred in bringing cases to a conclusion under paragraph 4.11 of the Code of Practice. Details of the administrative charge policy can be found on the administrative charges page.

Reviews of Tribunal decisions

If a provider disagrees with a decision made by a Tribunal on breaches and/or sanctions, it can contact the Executive and ask for a review of the Tribunal decision. In ordinary circumstances, the request must be submitted within 10 working days of publication of the decision. Applications for review must be in writing and specify which of the four permitted grounds for review apply.

Procedures relating to reviews can be found at paragraph 4.10 and 4.11.5 of the Code. Further detail can be found at paragraphs 253 to 261 of the Supporting Procedures.

Records of cases

We keep a record of all the cases which go to a Tribunal (including Oral Hearings) and publishes them in the Tribunals section.

 

*Archived: Investigations and Sanctions procedure 2014