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EMERGENCY PROCEDURE INVESTIGATIONS

11 December 2008


Following complaints from members of the public relating to missed calls to both landlines and mobiles from 070 prefixed numbers, PhonepayPlus has invoked its emergency procedure against four separate service providers.


PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, has launched four separate investigations following complaints from members of the public.

The complaints relate to consumers receiving missed calls to both landlines and mobiles from 070 prefixed numbers. These calls are terminated after one ring which prompts the consumers to call back. Depending on the service, consumers have reported hearing a continuing recording of a ringing tone, or have been connected to a voicemail messaging facility, upon callback.

Having contacted the network operators through whose networks the four services operate, PhonepayPlus has been advised by those networks that the service providers for each individual investigation, responsible under the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice to be:

  • H. Navaneeth
  • K. Felix J. Paul
  • T. Jaya Kandan
  • Mr Jaswinder Singh


Due to the very serious nature of the alleged breaches of its Code of Practice, PhonepayPlus has invoked its emergency procedure to bar access to numbers associated with the four services with immediate effect.

The bar on access applies to all numbers on which the four services have been operating. In addition, all revenues payable to the four service providers have been withheld by their individual network operator pending the outcome of the investigation.

PhonepayPlus regulates premium rate service providers, which are defined in paragraph 11.3.6 of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (Eleventh Edition Amended April 2008).

Background

The four services are charged at 50 pence per call, plus 3.95 pence per minute at all times from landlines, and potentially considerably more from mobile phones. These services are brought to the attention of consumers when they receive a missed call to either their landline or mobile which is terminated after one ring. The CLI (Caller Line Identification) is available when the recipient of the call either views the incoming CLI display or calls ‘1471' to find out the number of the caller. In each investigation, the specific CLI numbers vary but originate from 070 prefixed numbers.

Within each investigation, consumers appeared to have called the CLI, expecting it to be a genuine missed call, at which point they were charged from the commencement of the ringing tone heard. PhonepayPlus is concerned about the volume of calls made to members of the public. PhonepayPlus believes that the services in question offer no value to consumers and that the use of emergency procedure is necessary to promptly remedy the apparent harm to consumers.

Our concerns

Our investigations initially focus on the following paragraphs of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (11th Edition Amended April 2008):

  • Misleading (Paragraph 5.4.1a) - due to the apparent misleading nature of the service. Pricing Information (Paragraph 5.7.1) - due to the apparent lack of pricing information within the promotion of the service.
  • Contact Information (Paragraph 5.8) - due to the apparent lack of non-premium rate contact information within the promotion of the service.
  • Inappropriate promotion (Paragraph 5.12) - due to the apparent unsolicited missed calls.


The investigation into ‘Jaswinder Singh' also focuses on the following paragraph, in addition to the above paragraphs, of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (11th Edition Amended April 2008):

  • Legality (Paragraph 5.2) - due to evidence suggesting that consumers were registered with the Telephone Preference Service at the time of receiving the missed calls.


Next steps

In the cases of H. Naveneeth, K. Felix J. Paul and T. Jaya Kandan, we have written to Cheers International Sales Limited, the Network Operator, as well as the three Service Providers, setting out our concerns.

In the case of Mr Jaswinder Singh, we have written to Starcomm Limited, the Network Operator, as well as the Service Provider, setting out our concerns.

Under paragraph 8.3.3 of the Code of Practice, we have also requested further information from the service providers to assist our investigation. They have until 16th December 2008 to respond.

We aim to adjudicate on all investigations dealt with under the emergency procedure within 10 working days of the service provider's response to the alleged breaches raised.

However, this timeframe may vary depending on the complexity of the case and on whether there is a need to request more information.