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Ofcom grabs reins on premium rate scams

Hand-holding for PhonepayPlus

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Ofcom has launched a shakeup of how premium rate numbers are governed in the wake of a series of TV phone-in scams. The communications watchdog will apply closer scrutiny to PhonepayPlus, the premium rate regulator.

Ofcom has always been ultimately responsible for premium rate regulation under the Communications Act, but effectively outsources the day-to-day running of the industry to PhonepayPlus.

The new oversight measures will include powers for Ofcom to order PhonepayPlus how to act in important matters, a veto on executive appointments, and a stronger reporting structure on market trends.

Peter Phillips, Ofcom's strategy chief, will become PhonepayPlus' "sponsor", taking a special interest in how it works.

Although the Ayre report blamed television companies for the multi-million pound raids on their viewers, there was widespread criticism that watchdogs handled the scandal badly. In a bid to wipe the slate, ICSTIS - as the regulator was then known - was rebranded as PhonepayPlus earlier this year.

Separate to its power grab, Ofcom will publish a review of the scope of premium rate regulations next year. ®

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