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UK regulator wants register of all premium-rate firms

PhonepayPlus in code shake-up

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UK premium rate regulator PhonepayPlus has started consulting on plans to simplify its code of practice.

PhonepayPlus wants to introduce a registration scheme that will make it easier to identify rogue providers. The proposed code represents a substantial change from the previous regulatory regime based on "transparency, fairness and a simple dispute resolution service for consumers who encounter a problem".

The scheme would oblige all networks and providers involved in premium rate services to register their companies and services with PhonepayPlus before they're allowed to operate in the UK. This will provide customers with more information on services while allowing suppliers to make better-informed decisions on which businesses to partner with.

The second major change is placing responsibility for compliance on firms that actually operate and promote services. Firms involved in delivering the service to customers will no longer be the prime target for scrutiny.

The new code would allow PhonepayPlus to carry out enforcement action against any "party responsible for the content, promotion or operation of a service where there was a breach of consumer protection rules". Networks which fail to carry out "proper due diligence and risk assessment on a service that was harming consumers" would also be subject to regulatory action.

"The proposed code is the result of ongoing discussion with industry and extensive consumer research about what is needed to secure a better premium rate services market which delivers consumer confidence and business certainty," explained Paul Whiteing, chief exec at PhonepayPlus.

"We want an industry that puts consumers first and we believe a Code that focuses on outcomes helps to secure that and, as a consequence, a better market for all. It also allows industry to decide how best to achieve compliance with the Code while ensuring regulation is flexible and nimble enough to meet the demands of a rapidly-changing market."

PhonepayPlus invites feedback on its proposals from industry players and consumers over a 10-week consultation period.

Telecoms regulator Oftel is also calling for feedback on whether it should approve the PhonepayPlus plans. ®

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