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Telephone Services

Volume 402: debated on Friday 4 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to (a) review and (b) amend regulation of (i) the pricing and (ii) the advertising of the pricing of premium rate telephone services. [106957]

The basis of the regulation of premium rate telephone services is being changed by the Communications Bill, when the whole telecommunications regulatory regime will be modified to implement the EC Electronic Communications Directives. The arrangements for regulating premium rate services will, however, as far as possible, follow the present model based on compliance with a code of practice established and enforced by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) with back-up powers exercised, if necessary, by the sector regulator (currently OFTEL, but in future OFCOM).The code of practice embraces issues of pricing, provision, content, promotion and marketing of premium rate services, and provides for ICSTIS to investigate complaints and adjudicate on them. All this is expected to continue under the new arrangements. The Communications Bill gives OFCOM power to set conditions for the purpose of regulating the provision, content, promotion and marketing of premium rate services. It also gives OFCOM power to approve a code for regulating premium rate services (such as the ICSTIS code) and explicitly provides that such a code may, in particular, contain provision about the pricing of premium rate services and provision for enforcement of the code. Premium rate service providers will also continue to be subject to the rules governing non-broadcast advertisements and promotions set out in codes administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (the ASA).