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PSA bans company from phone-paid services market for five years for failing to comply with sanctions

5 August 2019

The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) has issued a formal reprimand and a five-year prohibition from the phone-paid services market to a company that had previously been issued with sanctions, including a fine and a bar on the service, in September 2018.

The company, PowerTel, placed voice messages on “hundreds of thousands” of out-of-use numbers instructing people to call its 118 lines, which are used for Directory Enquiry services. Calls to these numbers cost between £2 and £6.98 per call, and then £2-3.49 per minute.  

The voice message for the 118 023 number, operated by PowerTel, went as follows:  

“This number is out of service, call 118 023, call 118 023, call 1-1-8-0-2-3, for directory enquires” before mentioning the cost of the call. Consumers reported being confused by the message and hanging up before the cost of the call was given.  

The PSA Tribunal found that the company had failed to clearly inform consumers of the cost of the call, had misled consumers, failed to renew its registration with the regulator, and failed to provide information to the PSA during the investigation. A fine of £200,000 was issued, and the company was ordered to pay refunds to all eligible consumers who claimed one.

However, in October 2018 the company responded to a payment reminder for the fine, disputing the sanctions and stating that they refused to comply.

For failing to comply with the original sanctions, the PSA Tribunal issued a further formal reprimand,  and prohibition on the provider from providing, or having any involvement in, any premium rate service for a period of five years, or until all sanctions imposed by the Tribunal of 18 September 2018 have been complied with, whichever is the later.

The adjudication can be viewed in full here.