Telcos act to squeeze out 'few rotten apples'

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Some of the UK's leading telcos have finally agreed to work together to try and stamp out those "few rotten apples" that rip-off punters with expensive phone services.

They've effectively signed up to an early warning system that should help the industry spot scams and take action more swiftly against rogue operators that lure unwary punters into running up huge phone bills by calling numbers charging up to £1.50 a minute.

3, BT, Carphone Warehouse, Kingston Communications, NTL, O2, Onetel, Orange, T-Mobile, Telewest, Vodafone and Your Communications have all agreed to keep an eye on premium-rate services.

If they suspect a service provider is acting illegally - by employing expensive premium rate number for rogue diallers or non-existent prize scams - then these telcos will swap information and, if necessary, report companies to watchdog ICSTIS.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed after a report by communications regulator Ofcom in December called on the industry to do more to stamp out rogue operators.

ICSTIS denied that today's MOU was "forced" on the industry following the report and defended operators for not doing more in the past to weed out illegal operators.

In a statement Telewest's Bryan Petch, who took a lead in drawing up the MOU, said that the "vast majority of service providers operate legitimately under the ICSTIS Code".

"Unfortunately a few rotten apples have found ways of exploiting PRS (premium rate services) for their own ends. In publishing this MOU, the communications providers involved are expressing their determination to stamp out abuses and allow consumers to continue to receive the benefits from genuine premium rate services," he said.

Last week ICSTIS confirmed it had yet to recoup a single penny after fining 16 premium-rate phone services £1.3m following a crackdown on rogue operators in March. ®

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