We are the UK regulator for content, goods and services charged to a phone bill.

Code of Practice

On this page, you can view and search the 15th revision of the Code of Practice which comes into force on 5 April 2022. Please click here to learn more about the Code 15 roll out. If you prefer, you can also download a copy of the Code in PDF format using the buttons below.

2. Regulatory Approach

2.1.1

The PSA sets overarching regulatory Standards, each of which is supported by a set of more detailed Requirements.

2.1.2

Each Standard sets out the expected quality that relevant PRS providers must reach in relation to the provision of a given PRS. The Standards collectively cover the design, promotion, marketing, content, operation and delivery of a PRS. Each Standard is underpinned by Requirements that are designed to support providers in achieving the Standard.

2.1.3

Each Standard and Requirement imposes separate, distinct and enforceable obligations on PRS providers. Such obligations are subject to any permissions that may be granted pursuant to paragraphs 2.6.1–2.6.4 below.

Service-specific requirements
2.1.4

The Code also sets out service-specific requirements with which network operators, intermediary providers and merchant providers of specific categories of services must comply. These service-specific requirements provide further details for all relevant PRS providers on what additional requirements apply to their particular category of services so as to meet the Standards and protect consumers.  

2.2.1

To support compliance with the Code, the PSA publishes non-binding guidance. It sets out the PSA’s expectations and provides more detail on how PRS providers can comply with the Standards and Requirements in their provision of PRS, both generally as well as in relation to specific service types and charging mechanics. Guidance does not form part of the Code.

2.2.2

Guidance is updated from time to time, following an appropriate consultation if the PSA in its reasonable opinion considers that it is proportionate to consult due to the scale of the proposed changes and/or the potential gravity of the impact of those changes on affected PRS providers.

2.2.3

When considering any alleged breach of the Code and/or the imposition of sanctions, as set out in Section 5 of this Code, the PSA will take into account whether or not a relevant PRS provider has followed the PSA’s published guidance. The extent to which a PRS provider has attempted to comply with the Code by using methods other than those set out in the guidance, and/or the extent to which a provider engaged with the PSA as part of developing any such alternative methods, will also be taken into account.

2.2.4

The PSA also offers compliance support by issuing non-binding compliance advice to PRS providers on request. Whether a PRS provider has sought and/or followed compliance advice will be taken into account in considering any alleged breaches of the Code and/or the imposition of sanctions, as set out in Section 5 of this Code.

2.3.1

The PSA will publish and update best practice information from time to time on reasonable notice, following consultation as considered appropriate. Best practice information focusses on actions and behaviour that go beyond compliance with the Standards and Requirements and thereby sets out what the PSA considers to be the most effective ways of meeting consumer expectations in the provision of PRS.

2.3.2

Following best practice information will be taken into account as a mitigating factor when considering any alleged breach of the Code (as relevant) and/or the imposition of sanctions by reference to any Procedures published by the PSA from time to time.

2.3.3

Where the PSA concludes that a PRS provider has achieved an expectation set out in the best practice information, the PSA may, in its sole and absolute discretion, review and vary any existing compliance monitoring requirements under paragraphs 4.3–4.6 below in respect of that provider.

General permission
2.4.1

The PSA carries out supervisory activities as set out in Section 4 of this Code for the purposes of assessing a PRS provider’s level of compliance with the Code; enabling timely identification and resolution of issues; proactively addressing any such issues; reducing the risk of actual or potential harm to consumers arising from such issues; and ensuring that the PSA can take informed decisions in carrying out its regulatory functions. Such activities support PRS providers in achieving compliance with the Code.

2.4.2

The PSA supervises compliance with the Code using various methods as set out in paragraph 4.3.1 below.

2.4.3

The PSA conducts appropriate checks on PRS providers using an effective registration system, which enables the PSA to collect and verify essential information about PRS providers and their services.

2.4.4

The PSA sets robust DDRAC Requirements for all PRS providers in order to ensure that all such providers undertake thorough DDRAC in relation to all persons with whom they contract. The PSA requires PRS providers to use the information collected through DDRAC processes effectively and in line with relevant guidance issued by the PSA from time to time, and to develop and undertake ongoing risk management, mitigation and control activities, in the interests of consumers and the PRS industry as a whole.

2.4.5

The PSA’s supervisory activities aim to ensure it has a comprehensive understanding of PRS providers and the services that are offered to consumers. This enables the PSA to protect consumers by taking proactive regulatory action (including but not limited to compliance support and enforcement action) that is proportionate, efficient, timely, targeted and effective. 

2.5.1

The PSA carries out engagement and enforcement activities in the interests of consumers by seeking to ensure that PRS providers comply with the Code.

2.5.2

The PSA receives information and intelligence about compliance issues from a range of sources. These sources include (but are not limited to) consumers, industry, other regulators or public bodies, the press and the PSA’s own compliance monitoring activities.

2.5.3

The PSA will engage with PRS providers where it wishes to understand compliance issues and trends in specific services, service types, sectors or the market in general. It will also engage with PRS providers where it receives intelligence about compliance issues, including in respect of the Standards and/or Requirements set out in Section 3 of this Code. Such engagement by the PSA may lead to the commencement of enforcement action in relation to any compliance issues and trends that are identified.

2.5.4

The PSA considers each case or matter on its own merits. Based on the information it has and receives, the PSA determines the appropriate action to take in respect of any potential or actual non-compliance with the Code in order to eliminate or reduce harm or risk of harm to consumers. When engaging with PRS providers, the PSA will act in accordance with Sections 4, 5 and 6 of this Code, as appropriate.

2.6.1

The provisions of the Code apply to all PRS providers unless an alternative approach to achieving compliance is agreed with, or proposed by, the PSA in accordance with the following paragraphs and any Procedures or guidance published by the PSA from time to time.

Bespoke permission
2.6.2

Where a network operator, intermediary provider or merchant provider is able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the PSA in relation to any Requirement set out in Section 3 or any obligation required in any other part of this Code, that it is able to achieve the objective of the relevant Code provision(s) through means other than strict adherence to such provision(s), the PSA may grant permission in writing for the alternative means to be used. Such permission may be granted subject to conditions. Permission may be withdrawn or varied by the PSA at any time upon reasonable notice.

2.6.3

Whenever the PSA grants bespoke permission under paragraph 2.6.2, it will publish on its website, prior to the permission taking effect:

  1. the details of the permission, including the name of the PRS provider to which it applies and a description of the alternative means that may be used by that provider;
  2. the relevant provisions of the Code to which the permission to use those alternative means applies; and
  3. details of any conditions attached to the use of those alternative means.

The PSA will not publish confidential information pursuant to this paragraph.

General permission
2.6.4

Where the PSA considers, following consultation, that any Requirement set out in Section 3 or obligation in any other part of this Code can be met by means other than strict adherence to such Requirement or obligation, the PSA may grant permission to all relevant PRS providers by issuing a notice which will set out:

  1. the particular PRS providers or category of providers to which the notice applies;
  2. a description of the alternative means that may be used;
  3. the relevant provisions of the Code to which the permission to use those alternative means applies; and
  4. details of any conditions attached to the use of those alternative means.

Any such general permission may be withdrawn or varied by the PSA at any time upon reasonable notice.

2.6.5

A breach of any condition imposed in relation to permission granted by the PSA under paragraphs 2.6.2–2.6.4 above shall be treated as a breach of the Code. The seriousness of any such breach shall be determined by reference to any relevant Procedures published by the PSA from time to time.

2.7.1

The PSA may require that particular categories of service must not be provided without its prior written permission (prior permission). The PSA will give reasonable notice of any such requirement and the category of service to which it applies, and will publish a full list of such service categories on its website from time to time.

2.7.2

Following consideration of all relevant factors including the compliance record of those wishing to provide or participate in the provision of a service for which prior permission is required, prior permission may be refused or granted by the PSA subject to the imposition of additional conditions. Prior permission may be withdrawn or varied at any time on reasonable grounds and upon reasonable notice in writing.

2.7.3

If a PRS provider which has applied for prior permission is not satisfied with any aspect of the PSA’s determination in respect of its application, it may apply to the Chair of the CAP for a review of the determination.

2.7.4

The Chair of the CAP may affirm or reverse a determination to grant or refuse prior permission, and/or may set such conditions for the relevant prior permission as he or she deems fit, in accordance with any relevant Procedures published by the PSA from time to time.