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Phone users in the UK could be paying up to £5 a minute for premium rate phone calls if new tariffs get the go-ahead from industry regulator ICSTIS.

At the moment, tariffs for premium-rate services such as weather information and TV show voting are capped at £1.50 a minute, a charge introduced way back in 1994.

Now ICSTIS is currently mulling over the idea of introducing additional tariffs of £2.50 and £5.00 per minute (with total call cost capped at £75) following pressure for reform from the premium rate industry.

ICSTIS reckons the new higher tariffs would be used by professionals such as lawyers and accountants so that they could give paid-for advice over the phone.

But the regulator has made it clear that entertainment services (including all types of live chat and competitions), counselling services, consumer credit services and children's services would be excluded from the new tariffs.

Even so, ICSTIS is still concerned that these higher tariffs could lead to unexpectedly high bills for punters, which is why it is proposing a "cautious introduction to the market".

Although it has proposed a string of restrictions, it still recognises that higher premium tariffs could lead to people being ripped off by unscrupulous operators.

ICSTIS is currently consulting with the industry over the proposals. Deadline for submission is 1 September. ®

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