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ICSTIS CALLS TIME ON INTERNET DIALLER FRAUD

15 July 2004


Premium rate services regulator ICSTIS has today announced that all companies wanting to run premium rate services using Internet dialler software will be required to obtain its prior permission before they are allowed to operate. The new licensing arrangements will also mean that no telephone network can give out premium rate numbers to companies to run such services until they see written confirmation from ICSTIS that permission has been granted.


ICSTIS' clampdown follows a recent surge in complaints from members of the public claiming that their Internet dial-up connections have been diverted to premium rate numbers without their knowledge or consent.

Announcing the move, ICSTIS Director George Kidd said: "We will only grant permission to those companies that satisfy our stringent requirements. These are currently being finalised but will cover key areas such as clear terms and conditions, user consent, information about how to delete diallers, and responsibility for customer refunds and ICSTIS fines.

"Our new licensing arrangements are the first step in putting a stop to the type of fraudulent activity we have seen of late. But others must also play their part. Phone companies have the systems to identify suspicious call patterns and can take action before their customers unknowingly run up huge bills. Those networks that give out premium rate numbers in the first place have a duty to carry out thorough checks on those they give them to and to look at the speed at which they pass money on to them.

"We will not hesitate to report any networks that perpetuate consumer harm to Ofcom and are confident that they will take swift, tough action against them. Finally, we will continue to work with the police and other enforcement agencies to ensure that those responsible for defrauding consumers face the full consequences of their actions."

ICSTIS will shortly be issuing a formal notice to the industry about the new licensing regime, as well as giving full details of the requirements that must be met before permission to operate a premium rate service using Internet dialler software will be granted.

For further information, please contact the ICSTIS Press Office:

Rob Dwight Tel: 020 7940 7408 or 07973 172735
Charlotte Jordan Tel: 020 7940 7415

NOTES

  • ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, is the industry-funded regulatory body for all premium rate charged telecommunications services. We regulate services in their entirety - their content, promotion and overall operation - through our Code of Practice. We investigate complaints, and have the power to fine companies and bar access to services if the Code is breached. We can also bar the individual(s) behind a company from running any other premium rate services under any company name on any telephone network for a defined period.
  • Services are advertised on either 090 dialling codes or, in the case of text services, on four or five digit short codes followed by a descriptive key word (for example, 82828 VOTE or 62626 CHAT). In some instances, such as interactive TV where viewers make 'calls' using their remote controls, the premium rate number may not be shown. In addition, we regulate all '118' directory enquiry services.
  • Services offer information and entertainment via phone, fax, PC (e-mail, Internet, bulletin board), mobile (SMS/MMS/WAP) or interactive digital TV, and currently vary in cost from 10 pence per call to £1.50 per minute. The money paid by users for services is shared between the telephone company carrying the service and the organisation providing the content. Approximately 40,000 services are in operation at any one time, generating estimated revenue of £1 billion in 2003.