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BT abandons scheme to block rogue diallers

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BT has stopped blocking UK-based premium rate numbers suspected of being used by rogue dialler companies to defraud consumers out of hundreds of pounds.

In June last year BT responded to mounting concerns about rogue dialler software - which secretly changes computer settings so they call a premium rate phone line instead of their usual ISP number - and began "proactively blocking calls to these numbers.

The telco also agreed to "forego its share of the money generated by these expensive calls".

However, it's understood that BT has now decided to abandon its "block now ask questions later" policy. It is not absolutely clear what has prompted the change of heart.

Instead, it will only block numbers if given the go-ahead by UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS, although The Register understands the telco is still prepared to block suspected numbers that originate from outside the UK.

When BT announced plans to protect consumers last year BT's Gavin Patterson said: "We have decided to act on this issue, which is causing genuine concern to us and thousands of our customers.

"When a premium rate number is suspected of being used to deliver rogue diallers we will block traffic to that number without waiting for the regulator to complete an investigation.

"We need to minimise the number of customers being affected as quickly as we can and we can't allow any more of our customers to fall victim while the sometimes lengthy investigative process gets underway."

BT's tough stand was even given the backing of ICSTIS which said that "action at the network level, like BT is taking, protects customers and builds trust in the internet and premium charging."

In the first four months in operation BT blocked 1,000 numbers it believed were being used to run premium-rate dialler scams. During that time it dealt with 45,000 cases where customers had run up inflated phone bills because of rogue diallers. ®

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