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Telephone Services: Fraud

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (1) what consideration he has given to measures to outlaw unsolicited text messages which encourage people to return calls on premium rate lines; (189051)

(2) what estimate has been made of how many people have lost money by returning unsolicited text messages.

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: Under the provisions of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, text messages should only be sent with the prior consent of the individual subscriber. However, there is an exemption where the subscriber has given his or her mobile telephone number direct to a company in the context of the purchase of a product or service. Enforcement is undertaken by the Information Commissioner.

Additional safeguards put in place by the regulator, PhonepayPlus and industry require that customers must be clearly informed by text about what they have subscribed to, the cost and how to stop the service. A consumer must be able to switch off the service with the universal ‘stop’ command. If they have inadvertently signed up to a reverse text service, they can cancel it. A message once a month reminds subscribers about the service and the cost and, for every £20 spent, customers must get a further reminder about how to turn off the service.

Information is not collected on the cost of returning unsolicited text messages.