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

ICSS update

02 May 2024

We are today publishing an update on the impact of our regulatory activity in relation to Information, Connection and Sign-posting Services (ICSS).

Our review and targeted action towards this section of the market began in July 2022, when we launched a thematic review of the ICSS market. We acquired the ability to require data from providers as part of a thematic review when the 15th Code came into force in April 2022. 

We subsequently requested further data from the market, published a Code consultation in March 2023 and implemented changes to regulation in September 2023. In December 2023 we requested another round of data from the market covering a period either side of the introduction of the new regulations. 

Since September 2023, we have seen a marked change in the market to the benefit of consumers. Notably:

  • Complaints to PSA about ICSS have fallen
    In 2022/23, we received an average of 38 complaints per month about ICSS. In 2023/24 prior to the Code changes taking effect, we received 19 per month. Since the Code changes took effect, the number of complaints has fallen further to 3 per month. ICSS are no longer the most complained about phone-paid service. 
  • Consumer spend and consumer detriment have dropped
    Consumer spend on ICSS has fallen by 75% compared to the period assessed during the thematic review.  We assess that this is likely to be a result of more consumers making an informed choice not to use ICSS as a result of the better information available to them.  Consumer detriment has also fallen in monetary terms from an estimated £10m per year to £3.3m. 
  • Capping the service charge for a call at £40 has eliminated very high charges for single calls
    The highest service charge for a single call reported in our thematic review was £1,078.  £5.66m was spent on calls where the service charge was over £40.  The highest service charges for individual calls reported are now all at £40 or lower.
  • The primary operating model has changed
    Since our Code changes were introduced, 95% of all calls have been charged on a drop charge/per call model. This compares to roughly 50% of calls being charged on a per minute model when we first analysed the market in depth as part of the thematic review. 
  • ICSS investigations are no longer as prominent at they once were
    At the time of writing, only one of the 14 cases allocated by the PSA to enforcement activity involves ICSS.

This is a preliminary assessment based on data collected immediately after the changes were introduced. We will continue to monitor the market and assess the impact of changes to our Code until regulation of phone-paid services transfers to Ofcom later this year including through a further data collection exercise to assess whether the trends we have seen since the introduction of the new regulations in September 2023 have continued.