Phone scammers face £250k fine

Bigger stick for regulator

Companies that rip-off punters with dodgy premium rate services are to face increased fines of up to £250,000 after premium rate regulator ICSTIS admitted current sanctions weren't tough enough.

At the moment rogue dialler operators and other premium rate crooks that con innocent customers into running up huge phone bills can be fined up to £100,000. But a review of the £1bn industry by communications regulator Ofcom found that ICSTIS lacked enough clout to crackdown on unscrupuolous premium rate services.

Said ICSTIS boss George Kidd: "Our current fine limit of £100,000 is no longer sufficient to deal with the worst services we see.

"A new fine limit, combined with the other proposals in the Ofcom Review to strengthen consumer protection, should ensure that the relatively small number of rogues out there do not continue to damage trust and confidence in the entire premium rate industry."

Last year MPs tore into ICSTIS and its failure to regulate the premium rate industry. One senior MP described ICSTIS as being in "meltdown" as it failed to handle the rocketing number of complaints. It was also revelaed that ICSTIS had collected less than half of the fines it dished out, although this success rate has now improved to around 65 per cent.

Separately, ICSTIS confirmed it is investigating Jamster, the Verisign-owned company behind the annoying "Crazy Frog" ringtones. It has received more than 100 complaints, including from children, who say they were unaware that downloading the ringtone also signed them up to expensive premium rate services.

The investigation was launched in April and should conclude later this summer. ®

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