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

Our top priorities for FY2023/24

06 April 2023 Jo Prowse, PSA Chief Executive

I haven’t blogged for a long while and I thought now would be an opportunity to set out our priorities for the year ahead.

This is likely to be our last full year in operation before regulation is formally transferred to Ofcom1. The circumstances that led to the decision to transfer regulation remain the same. The phone-paid services market has matured with higher levels of compliance, good services that consumers enjoy, convergence with other digital markets and, generally, low levels of complaints and harm. That’s something we take great pride in and know that many in industry do too.

We will, of course, continue to regulate the market right up until transfer. We recently published our business plan and budget for the year, which sets out our planned activity. I wanted to highlight a couple of key priorities. One is due diligence, risk assessment and control (DDRAC). DDRAC has improved market-wide, but there are still opportunities to improve practice and address concerns. We will support these efforts through supervision and verification of industry data. Second, we intend to complete outstanding Code 14 cases, address current non-compliance using a range of Code 15 powers and work with Ofcom on transitional arrangements to deliver regulatory continuity.

Another of our top priorities is to address the ongoing issues relating to Information, Connection and Signposting Services (ICSS) which remain one of the main sources of complaints to us. Our recent thematic review demonstrates that the market is simply not working in the consumer interest. Detriment remains high with hundreds of thousands of consumers engaging connection services every year not knowing they are doing so.

Enforcing against non-compliance is critical; the Code Adjudicatory Panel recently banned two ICSS providers from the market and issued combined fines of nearly £2m. In addition to our enforcement response, we recently issued compliance advice to clarify our expectations and address poor practice prevalent in the market. The message is clear: standards must improve across the board.

We are currently consulting on changes to our Code which we expect will significantly reduce consumer detriment associated with ICSS. In the consultation we stated our view that a free IVR (Interactive Voice Response) would be hugely beneficial to consumers in addressing remaining detriment. Consumers should not pay for a service unless they choose to do so, having been given all the information they need to make that choice. We welcome and will support industry initiatives to provide service charge price points with a free first minute – it is in their interest too. Should industry be able to provide these, we will look to mandate their use as quickly as possible.

Looking ahead, we want to maintain the significant market improvements we have delivered. Therefore, we are committed to ensuring regulatory continuity in the consumer interest both pre and post transfer. Much of our focus this year will be on supporting the smooth and effective transfer of regulation - Ofcom will shortly be consulting on a draft Statutory Instrument that will transfer PRS regulation to it. Ofcom will be a strong and effective regulator of phone-paid services once the transfer of regulation is complete – until that time though, the PSA will continue to do its job of ensuring that consumers are able to use and enjoy phone-paid services confidently and safely.

On 14 March 2023 the Prime Minister announced that the new Department of Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT) would have sponsorship responsibility for Ofcom and for PSA.  The DSIT Secretary of State has to formally approve the transfer of PSA into Ofcom. Written statements - Written questions, answers and statements - UK Parliament