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Bulldog to block premium rate calls

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Bulldog is to block calls to all premium rate phone numbers from tomorrow - unless punters stump up £50 in advance to "opt-in" to the service.

In an email sent last night, the Cable & Wireless (C&W) owned service provider - which provides both phone and broadband services via local loop unbundling - told punters that the new measures would be introduced from Wednesday.

Premium rate numbers - those starting 09 - attract higher call charges ranging from 10p to £1.50 a minute and are used to provide information services such as horoscopes, weather forecasts, competition lines, TV votes, and support services.

But premium rate lines are also used by scammers to generate large amounts of cash from unsuspecting victims and have led to an ongoing bid by industry regulator ICSTIS to crackdown on dodgy operators.

In the email to punters, Bulldog said: "Bulldog is changing its policy regarding premium rate service calls - that's numbers starting 09. As of Wednesday 26 April 2006, you will not be able to call premium rate numbers from your Bulldog phone. If you do want to make premium rate calls you will need to make a pre-payment of £50.00 which will be used against your bill."

But the email has caused uproar among some consumers outraged at having to shell out £50 just to be able to make premium rate calls.

A spokeswoman for the telco told us: "Bulldog believes that it is important to raise awareness of the cost of premium rate services to our customers, protecting those that don't wish to use the services, while allowing customers who do want to use the service to make a positive choice - to opt-in.

"Customers who wish to opt-in will be asked to make a pre-payment of £50 which will be put towards their next total monthly bill.

"We recognise that this may affect individual circumstances of some users and so have provided all our customers with a specific number to call if they have any queries about this change," she said. ®

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