12 November 2009)

On 4 September 2009, Mobile Interactive Group (‘MIG’) applied for an exemption (under Code paragraphs 5.1.2a and 7.8.4e) from the requirements of paragraphs 5.4.2 and 7.8.4a of the Code in relation to a directory enquiry ‘DQ’ service operating on shortcode 68100.

Paragraph 5.1.2 of the Code allows a service provider to apply in writing for prior permission from PhonepayPlus (which may be given subject to conditions for a particular service) to be provided by means other than strict adherence to the Code provisions. Such permission may be withdrawn, or varied, by PhonepayPlus subject to the giving of reasonable advice.

Paragraph 7.8.4e of the Code enables PhonepayPlus to exempt a particular DQ service, or a category of DQ services, from any of the obligations of Code paragraph 7.8.4. This exemption may be applied where PhonepayPlus considers it appropriate to do so in order to permit the provision of a DQ service, in a form or using a business model that would not otherwise be reasonably possible, and the provision of which would be of net benefit to both competition and consumers.

MIG’s application was for an exemption from strict adherence to paragraphs 5.4.2 and 7.8.4a of the Code. These provisions are as follows:

5.4.2 ‘Services must not be unreasonably prolonged or delayed.’

7.8.4a ‘A DQ service provider must, immediately upon a caller providing sufficient information to enable the telephone number he is searching for (‘the number’) to be identified, provide, or offer to provide, the caller with that number (unless legal or regulatory obligations prevent the number from being provided). If the caller then indicates that he wishes the number to be so provided, the service provider must immediately provide that number without the caller having to redial or incur any additional charge(save for the cost of continuing the call for a sufficient duration to receive the number).’

MIG’s application was considered by a PhonepayPlus Tribunal which met on 1 October 2009. The Tribunal considered that the primary objective of both provisions was to ensure that consumers were not required to wait for an unacceptable length of time before they receive a service whilst being charged.

In this case, MIG demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Tribunal that it would be able to fulfil this objective in the following ways:

  • By ensuring that all promotional material and service messages clearly and prominently stated a fixed time that consumers would have to wait before receiving the service.
  • By providing evidence that the delay is fixed and enables mobile users to benefit from access to the lower cost 68100 DQ service.

The Tribunal granted the application under Code paragraphs 5.1.2a and 7.8.4e for exemptions from the provisions of Code paragraphs 5.4.2 and 7.8.4a respectively, to take effect on 18 November 2009, subject to the following specific conditions:

  • The promotional material must prominently, and clearly, state that consumers will have to listen to a 20-second advertising message before they can receive the number requested. This material must be submitted to the Executive for compliance advice.
  • There must be a message within the call, and placed prior to connection to the DQ service, which clearly states that consumers will be required to listen to a 20-second advertisement before they are provided with the DQ service.