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Ofcom accused of helping premium-rate scammers

ICSTIS fires broadside in regulatory bun fight

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Ofcom has been accused of issuing telephone numbers to rogue operators that rip off punters with premium-rate phone scams. The damaging accusation was made by George Kidd, the head of premium-rate telephone regulator ICSTIS, who claims that Ofcom is undermining its work to protect consumers from fraudsters.

In a letter seen by The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Kidd accuses Ofcom of failing to work with ICSTIS on cracking down on scammers. The bureaucratic cock-up is so bad Mr Kidd warns Ofcom boss Stephen Carter that it is turning the organisations into a laughing stock.

"The risk of consumer harm and ridicule over our lack of co-ordination has grown in recent weeks as Ofcom has issued numbers to a stream of businesses that we are currently prosecuting as service providers," says Carter. "This is not a situation I relish explaining or defending in the media or with politicians who reasonably expect ICSTIS and Ofcom to be working together."

No one from ICSTIS was available for comment at the time of writing.

A spokesman for Ofcom said that the giant communications regulator was holding "active discussions on all these points" and that Ofcom was working on a review of the premium-rate sector for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) which is due to be published later this autumn.

Last week ICSTIS announced it had barred 11 companies from running premium rate internet dialler services as part of a crackdown on scammers ripping off UK punters. Another 33 companies also face the chop after the watchdog used emergency powers to tackle the growing problem of rogue diallers, which hijack people's computers and run up huge phone bills. ®

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