Feeds

Ofcom's 0870 rip-off reforms stumble at the final hurdle

Burglar bungling delays consumer protection

The essential guide to IT transformation

Ofcom has postponed long-scheduled new rules designed to clamp down on the non-geographic number rip-off, after it realised that its rules could scupper burglar alarms and monitoring systems for vulnerable people.

Regulators have kept the news quiet. There's no announcement on its website. Ofcom told industry at a call routing focus group last week, according to operator Numberstore.

Ofcom told the Reg the hold-up has been prompted by a submission from a trade body called the UK Competitive Telecommunications Association (UKCTA). Its document, dated January 7 2005 (pdf, pages 12 and 13), warns on technical issues caused by plans for free pre-announcements on expensive calls.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said regulators had only become aware of the issue relating to alarm systems in the last few weeks.

When it drew up the new regulations more than 18 months ago, Ofcom decided to allow firms to opt out of providing standard rate national numbers - if they put out a free warning that the call will cost extra before it is answered. The problem is that many alarms automatically dial out to 0870 numbers when they are tripped. Some will time out if the call is not answered quickly, which could mean an emergency goes unreported.

The spokeswoman said: "Ofcom is investigating how to deal with the very specific case of alarm and safety services running on 0870. Ofcom is committed to introducing rules to make it clear to consumers what they will pay when calling 0870."

Consumers are forced to use 0870 numbers by banks, call centres and government bodies.

The further review means consumers won't be protected from high charges until spring or even summer next year. The delay will last "weeks to a few months", Ofcom confirmed.

Regulators acted after an outcry from consumer groups, including the campaigning website Saynoto0870.com. Currently, calls can cost up to three times the ordinary national rate, though many people don't know it.

After reading submissions - including UKCTA's - watchdogs launched a consultation on slashing rates for calling 0870 numbers back in September 2005. The stated aim was to end the practice within a year. When it eventually released concrete proposals in April 2006, the date had already slipped to February 2008.

Today Ofcom's spokeswoman assured us there will be no U-turn on the regulations. "The commitment is totally still there," she said. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.