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ICSTIS ANNOUNCES EMERGENCY CODE AMENDMENT

13 June 2005


ICSTIS acts to slow money-flow to premium rate rogues.

ICSTIS, the premium rate services regulator, today announced its plans to make an emergency amendment to its Code of Practice. The amendment will slow down the flow of money to companies running premium rate services in breach of ICSTIS’ rules and so stop them profiting from running scams.


ICSTIS, the premium rate services regulator, today announced its plans to make an emergency amendment to its Code of Practice. The amendment will slow down the flow of money to companies running premium rate services in breach of ICSTIS’ rules and so stop them profiting from running scams.

The amendment is being introduced after consultation with stakeholders and obliges phone networks not to make payments to their premium rate service providers for at least 30 days after calls have been made. This will give ICSTIS time to identify breaches of its Code and, where appropriate, direct phone networks to withhold funds pending the outcome of investigations.

The change is being introduced on an emergency basis to stamp out the consumer harm that can be caused by rapid payment from some of the phone networks that offer premium rate numbers to service providers on a revenue share basis. ICSTIS has gathered clear evidence that some networks are releasing monies to service providers every few days or on a weekly basis in relation to calls made to their services.

Such a payment structure enables service providers that have been in serious breach of the Code to receive most, if not all, of their revenues for such services. This can often be followed by the service providers concerned simply disappearing without ICSTIS being able to apply the key deterrent of holding monies gained, pending completion of its investigation and the imposition of sanctions.

ICSTIS’ action is based on one of the recommendations in the Ofcom Review of the Regulation of Premium Rate Services. The Review, conducted by Ofcom, with ICSTIS, was carried out at the Department of Trade and Industry’s request, and secured Ministerial approval in December 2004.

Before the amendment can be implemented, Ofcom has to consult on the approving the changes made to the Code.

ICSTIS Director George Kidd commented, “We are determined to act swiftly to protect consumers – and to ensure that the relatively small number of rogues out there do not continue to damage trust and confidence in the entire premium rate industry.

The changes to the Code will prevent those who seek to rip off consumers from benefiting by stopping the money from reaching them. The changes have been welcomed by the majority of the industry and with their continued cooperation consumers will be better protected.”

Details of the emergency Code are available on the Latest News page of ICSTIS’ website at www.icstis.org.uk

– ENDS –

For further information, contact the ICSTIS Press Office:

Rob Dwight Tel: 020 7940 7408 or 07973 172 735

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 the content, promotion and overall operation of services 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 mobile services, on four or five digit short codes followed by a descriptive key word (for example, 82828 VOTE). 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 2004.