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Plans to increase maximum premium rate tariffs to £5 a minute have been shelved over concerns that higher charges could lead to even more people being ripped off.

Premium rate watchdog ICSTIS said it would not proceed with proposals to offer new £2.50 and £5.00 a minute charges until sufficient safeguards are in place to protect consumers.

George Kidd, the director general of ICSTIS, said: "We know high tariffs are particularly attractive to those intent on wrongdoing. We will only move on the trial [of new higher premium rate charges] when we are sure the right safeguards are in place.

"The same is true for any tariff increased, including suggestions of £2.00 per minute. It would be irresponsible to raise tariffs at a time when complaints levels are rising, consumer harm is increasing and overall trust in premium rate is under threat."

Indeed, ICSTIS warns in its latest bulletin that complaints about Internet-related premium-rate services have rocketed. In particular, it's concerned that Net users are being stung by rogue "dialler software" that disconnects PCs from an ISP before reconnecting them to a premium rate service.

Last month, an Internet sex company was fined £10,000 after more than 370 punters complained that it had installed software on their PCs that connected them to a premium-rate phone line. ®

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