Ireland: auto-diallers under control

Exceptional steps may now be lifted

Ireland's communications regulator has lifted restrictions in place on ISPs and telecom operators, introduces to combat rogue auto-diallers.

ComReg noted that while there are still instances of such fraud being reported, consumer awareness has resulted in fewer incidents. As a result, 'exceptional steps' imposed at the time could now be lifted.

ComReg introduced the measures in September 2004 to raise consumer awareness of the auto-dialler scam and to ensure that operators were implementing protective measures to reduce the effect these scams were having on consumers.

Under the measures, telecom operators were required to suspend direct dial access to a number of destinations in the South-Pacific region including French Polynesia, as well as Mauretania. This guideline caused consternation among representatives of these companies in these regions. However ComReg did compile a list of legitimate phone numbers to the region that were not blocked once guidelines came into effect.

In addition to the restrictions imposed on telecom operators, ISPs were obliged to keep customers informed about suitable solutions that would eliminate the dialler programme from PCs and stop it from re-installing itself later.

Auto-dialler programmes and modem hijacking became a serious problem for many Irish consumers in the first half of 2004. ComReg received over 300 phones calls from consumers concerning excessive charges arising from rogue diallers, with costs incurred reaching €2,000 in some cases. Such incidents led the regulator to take action in a bid to stop the scams occurring.

The problem arises when internet users' dial-up settings are changed, without their knowledge or permission, to an international number. Users only become aware of the problem when they receive a copy of their phone bill which will feature charges for calls to international destinations at premium rates.

Copyright © 2004, ENN

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