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Restoring trust in Personal Numbering Layout image
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A consultation issued by the Director General of Telecommunications on proposals to stem abuse of the 070 range

May 2001

Contents

Summary

Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 2 Personal Numbering

Chapter 3 Abuse of the 070 range

Chapter 4 Current action

Chapter 5 Options to restore trust

Chapter 6 Linked issues

Chapter 7 Consultation

Annex A Draft Numbering Convention A7

Glossary


Summary

S.1 Oftel is concerned that incidents of abuse of 070 numbers are growing at an unacceptable rate. The 070 range of numbers has been set aside, within the Specified Numbering Scheme (SNS), which is managed by Oftel, for Personal Numbering Services.

S.2 A growing number of disputes concerning Premium Rate Services (which should operate behind an 09 number) are involving an 070 number.

S.3 Oftel has been working closely with the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) to clarify and enforce the existing rules.

S.4 This consultation document both details several examples of abuse that have come to Oftel’s attention and outlines possible action to prevent these and other types of misuse. Options for changes to the existing rules considered in this consultation document include:

  • a Code of Practice for Personal Numbering Service Providers;
  • an extension of the existing ICSTIS Code of Practice to cover all revenue-shared content services;
  • a ban or limit on revenue-sharing on 070 numbers. This is Oftel’s preferred option at present; and
  • price controls for 070 numbers.

S.5 A draft amendment to the February 2001 Consultation Document on the Third Issue of the Numbering Conventions is also attached for consideration and comment.

S.6 Finally, Oftel is also seeking the views of stakeholders (ie industry and consumers) on possible future limitations or controls on other revenue-shared services outside of the 070 and 09 ranges.

S.7 This consultation will last for two months, with two further weeks allowed for comments to be made on any comments received by Oftel.


Introduction

1.1 070 is the range set aside, within the Specified Numbering Scheme, for Personal Numbering. Oftel is concerned that the 070 range is being used to host a number of services that have nothing to do with Personal Numbering.

1.2 Incidents of abuse of Personal Numbers are growing at an unacceptable rate, and are beginning to undermine consumer and industry confidence in legitimate Personal Numbering Service provision.

1.3 In February 2001, Oftel acknowledged that there had been a noticeable growth in complaints concerning the abuse of the 070 numbering range, and suggested a tightening of Convention A7 (which will replace the current Convention B7), dealing with that range, in the Consultation Document entitled Revising the National Numbering Conventions. Oftel has subsequently come to the view that the clarification proposed at that time may still be insufficient to stem the misuse. This view was widely supported at the recent Numbering Forum held on 10 April 2001.

1.4 In March 2001, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) announced that it would be contacting those who appeared to be carrying Premium Rate Services (PRS) on 070 numbers to inform them that in doing so they are in breach of both its Code of Practice, and Oftel’s National Numbering Conventions (‘the Conventions’). Oftel fully supports ICSTIS’s opinion and actions.

1.5 A number of service providers appear to see 070 numbers as an unregulated alternative to the 090 PRS range. This abuse continues to be attractive because of the tariffing flexibility that has always appeared to be necessary for legitimate Personal Numbering Services (PNS). Those variations are considerable, because a PNS connection may be to a fixed, mobile, paging or texting service. This requires that the tariffs include the cost of a full range of connections, plus the cost of providing the PNS itself. In addition, revenue-sharing between the service provider and the holder of the personal number is permissible. 070 numbers, unlike 09 numbers, are commonly accessible from mobile telephones. 070 numbers are also less likely to be call-barred by domestic consumers and businesses, and thus can operate as internationally accessible PRS.

1.6 This consultation document sets out what Oftel believes are and are not the legitimate characteristics of a Personal Numbering Service (PNS), ie those characteristics which should be behind an 070 number. It further sets out some of the types of problem that are arising, how Oftel and ICSTIS have been tackling them, and it proposes measures that could allow them to be resolved more quickly and permanently.

1.7 In addition, Oftel is raising a number of issues related to the abuse of revenue-sharing in other number ranges. At this stage, Oftel is seeking views on how best to resolve problems in a manner proportionate to the abuse, and inviting views on any other factors that are relevant to this debate.


Personal Numbering

2.1 Personal Numbering Services (PNS) have been in existence for some time. The 070 range was set aside for the exclusive use of PNS in the mid-1990s.

2.2 070 is a sub-set of the 07 range that has been designated for ‘Find-me-anywhere’ services. Find-me-anywhere services enable customers to be contacted, whatever their location, where the call charge is not distance dependent. Mobile, personal numbering and paging services fall within the 07 range and may only use the respective part of that range as designated in the Specified Numbering Scheme (SNS).

Definition

2.3 In the Statement Personal Numbering Services, of March 1998, Oftel stated that personal numbers are designed to enable customers who habitually move location to be called, using a single telephone number, and to receive those calls at virtually any telephone number, including mobile numbers.

2.4 A Personal Number is a number, allocated by a Personal Numbering Service Provider (PNSP) to a person (or organisation), but which is not itself linked to a network. It is thus independent of a terminating network operator. It is that independence which enables customers to control the delivery of incoming calls so that they can be reached anywhere, irrespective of location.

Service-Enhancement

2.5 Personal Numbers do not in themselves provide any facility for call origination (ie to make outgoing calls), so having one complements and enhances a customer’s existing telephone service.

2.6 By having a Personal Number a customer (ie the person to whom the number has been sub-allocated by a PNSP) acquires:

  • a single contact number for family, friends and business colleagues;
  • network independence (the owner can change network or PNSP, without changing telephone number(s), so it provides number portability for the owner);
  • a dynamic, follow-me-anywhere service that is easy to use; and
  • ancillary services such as voice mail and messaging services.

2.7 Both parties (ie calling party as well as called party) are assumed to benefit from a call taking place. The caller wants to reach that party, irrespective of an element of uncertainty in the cost of the call, whilst the called party wants to be reached wherever he is. These are the benefits of the service provided by PNSPs. It is possible that the only party who should legitimately expect to reap any direct financial benefit (ie revenue) from this arrangement would be the PNSP.

Legitimate charges

2.8 There is an established PNSP market and many long-term PNS customers, but both legitimate PNSPs and Oftel are concerned that current cases of abuse, stemming from the freedom of tariff rates, may be undermining the relationship of trust between the calling and the called parties. Oftel hopes that by restoring trust in personal numbering, it may build consumer confidence in the service to the benefit of both consumers and the legitimate PNSP market, and thus encourage the development of new personal numbering products and services. This aspiration was supported at the recent Numbering Forum.

2.9 To add more detail to the issue of what might be a legitimate charge, it is useful to look back to Oftel’s March 1998 Statement, Personal Numbering Services. In that statement Oftel set out that it believed there to be two basic types of Personal Numbering Service, the detail of which varies according to whether the holder of the Personal Number becomes liable for any call charges. These options are:

(a) Partial Calling Party Pays (‘P-CPP’)

For this service the calling party pays for the entire cost of the call where the divert location is on a fixed network. However, where the divert location is to a mobile network then the called party (ie the owner of the Personal Number) is liable for the divert leg of the call. The actual tariff that the owner of the personal number has to pay for this element of the call will vary between different PNSPs.

(b) Full Calling Party Pays (‘F-CPP’)

For this type of service the calling party pays for the entire cost of the call (ie inbound plus the divert element) which means that the owner of the Personal Number, the called party, is not liable for any call charges regardless of the divert location.

2.10 Oftel recognised, in the above-mentioned 1998 Statement, that tariffing for both the P-CPP and F-CCP options needs to be flexible. Indeed, Oftel has not, to date, prescribed any tariff structure for the 070 range.

2.11 When personal numbering was launched, Oftel was unconvinced by the need for revenue-sharing, but this option was left open as a means of coping with minimal amounts of revenue that may accrue in excess of cost/ service charge. However, Oftel believes that this cost/ charge gap is being exploited and there is now a clear case for saying that revenue-sharing is not a legitimate part of PNSP. The benefit of a Personal Number is, as stated above, the fact that a connection has been made.


  Abuse of the 070 range

3.1 In Chapter 2, the nature of personal numbering was discussed. During recent months, Oftel has received an increasing number of complaints from various sources with regard to non-personal numbering activities taking place behind 070 numbers.

3.2 Originating network operators are worried that they have seen a rise in billing complaints from their customers. Legitimate PNSPs are concerned about users and non-UK telecommunication companies blocking 070 numbers for fear of incurring excessive expenses and that, in general, the 070 range is being brought into disrepute. As a result of increased inappropriate activity, access platforms and originating networks may move to block access to 070 (as is the case with 090) thus seriously threatening the legitimate PNS business.

Recent instances of abuse

3.3 It is normal for Oftel to receive around 250 complaints relating to PRS each year. Of these, currently around a third concern the usage of an 070 rather than a 090 number. Many adult PRS services appear to be migrating to 070, and these and many of the ‘scams’ seem to be operating at BT’s maximum K Rate – ie 37.5ppm (including VAT) at peak rate, although that can be even higher from certain originating networks (eg mobile).

3.4 It has become clear to Oftel that misuse of 070 numbers is accelerating. The 070 range is at risk of becoming a by-word for scams and pseudo-premium-rate promotions. This would have the effect of undermining both legitimate PNS services and the protection measures supervised by ICSTIS for PRS on 090 through its Code of Practice.

3.5 The following are examples of what is going wrong:

(a) Websites promoting ‘unregulated’ PRS on 070

A website has appeared promoting 070 numbers as a means of earning in excess of ‘16p per minute with… no ICSTIS regulations… can be used for any purpose.’

(b) Internet service providers using 070

ICSTIS received a host of complaints from consumers concerning telephone bills up to £13,000 for calls to an ISP which claimed to offer an adult-orientated closed user group service. Dial-up access to that service was labelled free but was via an 070 number that charged 38ppm. Additionally, customers then found that the default setting on their computers had been changed, as a result of accessing the company’s website, and that they were unwittingly browsing the internet at that 38ppm rate. That case was resolved satisfactorily by ICSTIS and Oftel, and the 070 number closed.

(c) Newspaper ads for PRS on 070 numbers

There have been a number of publications promoting Premium Rate Services, where in excess of twenty per cent of advertisements are now using 070 numbers. Most of these give some tariff information, as is required by ICSTIS, but there is a widespread belief in the industry that 070 falls outside of ICSTIS control.

(d) Expensive credit ‘advice’ lines

Oftel has also received joint complaints from both ICSTIS and the Finance Industry Standards Association, regarding a credit broker, promoting itself using an 070 number. The company concerned had previously used an 090 number and, on that number, was subject to ICSTIS regulation. ICSTIS’s Guideline No.10 on Consumer Credit Services sets out the conditions under which such services can operate. Those conditions include a requirement to structure PRS so that callers who do not take out a loan within six months, or who exercise a right to cancel a loan agreement within that time frame, incur no costs in excess of £5. The move by the credit broker to an 070 number can be seen as a way of undermining ICSTIS’s regulation in an area with vulnerable consumers and there is therefore a considerable potential for consumer harm.

(e) Estate agents and hoteliers targeted for fax-back scams

Estate agents around the country have been contacted by fax requesting that details of properties on their books be faxed to an 070 number. No price warning is given, in spite of the fact that the calls, often to slow fax machines, will cost estate agents 38ppm. Oftel has dealt with a case referred to the Director General by a Member of Parliament concerning a dozen estate agents who had received calls asking for information to be faxed to 070 and 09 PRS numbers. Oftel has also received information about similar calls to hotels asking for accommodation details to be faxed to 070 numbers.

(f) Mobile text-back messages

Oftel has been made aware of that a large corporation received unsolicited text messages to approximately 40% of its 3,500 mobile phones. The message asked recipients to call an 070 number with no cost warning. On dialling that number a message then asks the caller to dial a further 070 number after a pause of some two minutes. That company has subsequently blocked access to all 070 numbers from its account phones.

3.6 None of the services referred to in paragraph 3.5 above are legitimate PNS, but they are operating behind 070 numbers. They are either PRS attempting to avoid ICSTIS’s regulations or, as is the case with 3.5(e) and 3.5(f) above, the type of services that would not comply with ICSTIS’s Code of Practice.

Premium Rate Services

3.7 In contrast to PNS, which are essentially an enhanced service on top of existing private or corporate telecom arrangements, PRS are special services commonly containing information or entertainment accessed by dialling a special telephone number. Customers pay for both the service and the call through their normal telephone bill.

3.8 In the current Second Issue (April 1997) of the Conventions, Convention B9 already provides that the 09 range should be used for PRS and, more specifically, that sub-ranges 090 and 091 should be used for premium rate content services and premium rate non-content services, respectively. As explained in the consultation document entitled Revising the National Numbering Conventions of February 2001, Oftel has suggested that the proposed new Third Issue of the Conventions should, for reasons of further clarification and better service meaning to callers, set out certain common characteristics of these two types of PRS as follows:

(a) Premium rate content services in the 090 range are normally expected to have the following characteristics:

    (i) they are paid for through the telephone bill of a subscriber;

    (ii) as well as charges for call conveyance, charges are payable for the additional non-telecommunications related content, product or service; and

    (iiii) the revenue for the call, which comprises the price of the telephone call plus the content, product or service, is shared between the operator and the provider of the service whether directly or indirectly.

(b) Premium rate non-content services in the 091 range are normally expected to have the following characteristics:

    (i) they are paid for through the telephone bill of a subscriber;

    (ii) the payment for the call covers the conveyance of the call and the cost of the non-content service provided (eg internet e-mail access); and

    (iii) they are not ‘Find-me-anywhere’ services.

3.9 The PRS industry has voluntarily regulated itself through ICSTIS, although a small group of services, involving Live Conversation Message Services, fall within the ‘Controlled Services’ licence condition contained in Telecommunications Act licences, enforced by Oftel. This was all recently covered in greater detail the Oftel Statement, Regulation of Premium Rate Services, of September 2000. Oftel will consult in due course on the final version of the draft ‘Controlled Premium Rate Services’ licence condition published in that Statement.

ICSTIS view of Premium Rate Services

3.10 ICSTIS and Oftel have agreed that PRS can be charged on a different basis to ordinary, geographic telephone calls. These are services where the revenue from the overall charge to customers is shared between the telephone company (for the carriage of the call) and the service provider (for the content or resulting product or service to the individual or organisation providing service for the content). Payment for PRS calls is made through the caller’s telephone bill.

3.11 PRS are defined, in the ICSTIS Code of Practice, as:

"services where part of the overall charge paid by a customer to the network operator for the service, being payment for the content of the call or other product or service delivered in the course of, or as a direct consequence of, the call, is passed on by the network operator, directly or indirectly, to the service provider."

3.12 This definition does not confine PRS to a particular part of the numbering range (eg 09), although the ICSTIS Code of Practice requires elsewhere that, before launching such a service, a service provider must notify ICSTIS of the telephone number range being used. As ICSTIS has endorsed Oftel’s announcements – made in 1997 and repeated in 1998 – that 090 or short access codes and reverse text messages on mobile telephones is the appropriate range for a content-related PRS, using 070 for PRS is a prime-facie breach of the ICSTIS Code of Practice.

3.13 To allow the 070 range to continue to be used for PRS undermines Oftel’s 1997 Statement on the SNS, when it was established that there was overwhelming support for PRS to be placed behind a new code, namely 09. ‘09’ informs consumers that they are dialling a PRS, just as 070 should inform consumers that they are dialling a roaming, find-me-anywhere, service. Such differentiation is a prime benefit of the United Kingdom’s SNS.

 


Current action

Oftel enforcement procedures

4.1 Oftel has already proposed to amend the Conventions where they deal with 070 numbers (see Convention B7, of the 1997 Second Issue, and Convention A7 of the draft Third Issue set out in the consultation document entitled Revising the National Numbering Conventions of February 2001).

4.2 It is a breach of the Numbering Arrangements Condition, contained in a licence granted under section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, for an operator to not have a Numbering Plan, or to have a Numbering Plan that does not accord with the Conventions. It is also a breach of that Condition to install, maintain and adjust the applicable systems of the operator so that those systems route messages and otherwise act inconsistently with the Numbering Plan.

4.3 Providing services other than PNS behind an 070 number is a breach of the existing and Second Issue of the Conventions, which position has been reinforced in the proposed Third Issue of the Conventions.

4.4 Oftel uses the procedures set out in section 16 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 to enforce any breach of a licence condition, should the Director General consider that there is any likelihood of that abuse continuing or being repeated.

Breach of ICSTIS Code of Practice

4.5 In addition to Oftel action is that proposed by ICSTIS in a statement entitled

ICSTIS and Oftel act against services on 070 dialling codes in its March 2001 Report. That action is intended to ensure that services appear only on the correct dialling code in accordance with paragraph 2.2.2 of the ICSTIS Code of Practice, which states:

"Where certain codes or number ranges have been designated by either Oftel or a network operator for the provision of particular service categories, services within these categories must use those codes or number ranges."

4.6 However, where PRS are operating in apparent breach of the ICSTIS Code of Practice, in addition to simply operating behind an incorrect dialling code, ICSTIS has already stated that it will take enforcement action. Given the potential risk of consumer harm that such services can create, particular priority is being given to live entertainment services operating on 070 dialling codes without prior permission and without having made any payments into the Compensation Fund.

The Fax-back problem 

4.7 The problems being experienced by estate agents and hoteliers are more problematic and, under current legislation, fall outside of Oftel’s remit. The relevant Regulations are the Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1998, (‘TDPP Regulations’) which cover the usage of fax machines for marketing purposes.

4.8 Those Regulations prohibit the use of publicly available telecommunications services where the subscriber of the called line has already notified the caller that he does not wish to receive unsolicited marketing communications, or has notified the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) that he does not wish to receive unsolicited faxes.

4.9 That is of limited use in the instances of 070 ‘scams’ that have been brought to Oftel’s attention to date. For a fax to fall within the scope of the TDPP Regulations, it must be both unsolicited and sent for marketing purposes. Whether the fax is unsolicited is not usually difficult to establish. The real difficulty can be with establishing whether a fax is for marketing purposes; often such faxes are not selling anything and therefore are unlikely to fall within the scope of these Regulations. Oftel will explore with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and with Government the scope for amending these regulations. However, it believes that action to protect consumers should not await the outcome of these discussions.

4.10 Oftel believes that by ensuring that 070 cannot be lucrative for the perpetrators of these scams they will, of necessity, return to using 09 numbers. The public is more likely to be aware of the potential cost of calling an 09 number and, therefore, would be less likely to be easily duped into faxing-back such numbers.

Conclusion

4.11 At present, it is clear that some service providers are operating outside of both the ICSTIS Code of Practice and the Conventions, and are therefore liable to enforcement action.

4.12 However, so long as there continues to be a profit motive for end-users, it is difficult to see how non-PNSPs can be dissuaded from abusing the 070 range.

4.13 Oftel is concerned that the Conventions, even in the proposed revised February 2001 format, may offer too little guidance on the nature of acceptable behaviour within the 070 range. There would therefore appear to be a clear case for further tightening up the rules for PNS, and possibly removing, or limiting, revenue-sharing in general.

 


Options to restore trust

5.1 Having defined above, in paragraph 2.4, what a legitimate PNS is, Oftel believes that to underpin such a service it is important to make the 070 range unsuitable for anything that is not a PNS.

5.2 Oftel believes that the following are possible courses of action to tighten up the situation:

  • code of practice for Personal Numbering (ie for 070);
  • code of practice for all shared-revenue services;
  • banning or limiting revenue sharing on 070; or
  • price controls on 070.

5.3 Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages. Oftel is keen that the solution to these problems be proportionate to the scale of the problem in terms of frequency of complaints, degree of consumer harm and adverse impact on the legitimate Personal number and premium rate suppliers. Oftel therefore seeks views on both the proportionality and practicability of each of the options set out below.

(i) Code of Practice for Personal Numbering (ie for 070)

5.4 Just as there is an effective Code of Practice for PRS, operated by ICSTIS, there could be a Code of Practice for Personal Numbering Services operated either by Oftel or a (possibly self-regulating) body made up of and managed by the PNSPs for that purpose.

5.5 In the longer term, this may be a viable solution to ensure the integrity of services run within the 070 range, but in the short term it is difficult to envisage how this might operate. The reason for that is primarily that, at present, Personal Numbering has been seriously compromised. It is difficult to determine, with certainty, which of those currently with active allocations of 070 numbers is using the service legitimately and, at present, Oftel has no means of legally recognising or enforcing such a Code.

5.6 However, such a Code of Practice could be expected to include, inter alia, a commitment to price transparency and address the issue of the practicability of displaying tariff information.

5.7 Oftel seeks views on this assessment of the current or future viability, usefulness and scope of a Personal Numbering Code of Practice.

(ii) Code of Practice for all Shared-Revenue services

5.8 A Code of Practice for all revenue-shared services could be in addition to, or instead of, a Personal Numbering Code of Practice and could be an extension of the ICSTIS scheme. However, it should be noted the present structure of regulation has only recently received the support of stakeholders from industry and consumer groups. Oftel believes that the distinctions in the SNS between 070 and 090, which would favour distinct Codes of Practice, remain relevant.

5.9 In addition, ICSTIS regulates content but some, quite appropriate, activities (eg direct access to cheaper international calls) operate on a revenue-shared basis without content. It is quite reasonable for ICSTIS to have a code of practice for content-based services, but it is unclear what a revenue-share content code of practice would include or who would be responsible for it. For example, revenue-shared services would cover too broad a spectrum of the numbering ranges (eg 090, 084, 087 and 070) for a code of practice to be meaningful.

5.10 Oftel does not wish to become involved in complex market determining factors of this sort. ICSTIS has indicated informally that it would not consider itself to be the right body to do so. Oftel is therefore not inclined to believe that this is a viable option at present. In addition, as stated above, Oftel has no means of legally recognising or enforcing such a Code.

5.11 However, Oftel would be grateful for views on whether its assessment of the market at this stage, and in this area, is accurate, and on its conclusion that such a Code of Practice would not appear to be practicable.

(iii) Banning or limiting revenue sharing on 070

5.12 Banning revenue share on 070 could be a straightforward solution to the immediate problem. There is a clear case for saying that it is the revenue-share aspect that has led 070 numbers to be a viable substitution for 090 numbers for unscrupulous service providers. At lower pence per minute (‘ppm’) rates there was unlikely to be much opportunity for exploitation through revenue sharing. But at higher rates the gap between a fixed line charge and what is currently being charged for calls to some 070 numbers allows for a significant profit, exactly comparable with many 090 rates.

5.13 As stated above, Oftel does not consider that revenue-share is a legitimate part of PNS. PNS is a service enhancement for both callers and called where the connection (ie being in touch) not in the money being raised is of importance. A ban on revenue share would be a very simple but effective means of re-establishing a pure PNS and have a useful by-product of automatically reducing the cost of calls to 070 numbers thus reinforcing the business models of legitimate 070 operators and helping consumers (both callers and called).

5.14 Annexed to this consultation document is a draft of how this policy could be dealt with in the Conventions, when the proposed Third Issue is published later this year.

5.15 It has also been suggested that it might be desirable to limit the revenue-shared element rather than simply banning it. However, it is difficult to see how Oftel could easily arrive at an appropriate ‘cap’ – 5ppm has been suggested. Perhaps, more crucially, it is unclear how such limits could be policed.

5.16 In the current circumstances – ie a need to correct a number of very real difficulties that consumers are experiencing – Oftel favours a revenue-ban on 070, but would be grateful for views on this, particularly of those who would be effected by such a policy change, both on the principle and on how it could operate in practice.

5.17 In addition, views on the draft Convention text (annexed to this document) are sought.

(iv) Price controls on 070

5.18 Rather than ban revenue sharing on 070, or possibly in addition to a ban, Oftel could impose tariff controls or tiers in the relevant part of the Conventions, in a manner similar to that which already operators within the 08 and 09 ranges. Oftel could use this both to impose discipline and transparency for callers within the 070 range and/or to create a ceiling on tariffs.

5.19 To impose and enforce such tariff tiers within the 070 range would allow callers to know in advance the parameters of the charge they would pay. That should encourage both the called party and PNSPs to opt for services where charges reflect more closely the cost of the call or indeed where the called party is to a pre-agreed extent subsidising the call a charge, ie paying for the convenience of being contactable anywhere. Naturally, this would need to be accompanied by efforts to raise awareness if consumers are to derive full benefit from these changes.

5.20 In those circumstances, it might not in practice, over the longer term, be necessary to maintain an upper limit or ceiling on call charges, but in the short term this could be a very useful mechanism to quickly boost confidence in 070.

5.21 However, the main disadvantage of a remedy of this type is the technical difficulty associated with setting of such a price cap, as the great benefit of personal numbering is that calls to these numbers can be directed anywhere. It is difficult to see how that flexibility could be adequately reflected in a transparent tariff structure. As with the option of revenue ‘capping’, at (iii) above, it is also unclear how this could be policed.

5.22 Oftel would need to consider carefully at which level such tariff rates should be set but would be grateful for views, especially from PNSPs and their customers, as to whether this is, a useful way to proceed, and if so what kind of tariff tiers or ceiling could be appropriate.

Other considerations

5.23 Oftel believes that it has a good understanding of what is a PNS, and, by default, what is not a PNS. However, it recognises that there may well be services of which it is unaware that currently operate behind an 070 number that may not fit neatly into either of these categories.

5.24 Such services may therefore result in a conflict with, or complicate, some of the options set out above.

5.25 Oftel therefore seeks views from operators or service providers not only on its view of PNS and PRS, and on the consequences of enforcing these (ie ending revenue share on 070), but also on any services that may fall outside of either description and which may require revenue-sharing and could complicate the above options.


  Linked issues

6.1 In Chapter 5, Oftel has proposed some specific solutions to deal with the immediate problems of PNS. In addition, Oftel would like to take this opportunity to seek views on some linked issues.

Banning or limiting revenue-sharing outside of 09 and 070 ranges

6.2 At present, revenue-sharing, between the service provider or the network operator and the person in receipt of a telephone number, occurs in various number ranges. In addition to PRS on 090/091 numbers, and PNS on 070 numbers, revenue-sharing currently takes place behind 084 and 087 numbers. Although both 084 and 087 number ranges are currently capped (at local call/ 5ppm and national rate/10ppm respectively), this still leaves sufficient incentive for exploitation. Oftel is particularly concerned that ‘scams’ such as fax-back could still take place there.

6.3 Oftel recognises that revenue-sharing is entirely appropriate in situations where there is a content involved or, in non-content cases, where access to, eg cheaper international calls is given. But Oftel is taking this opportunity to initiate a review of the wider policy context and air some preliminary views on options for possible future regulatory change.

6.4 The current draft Numbering Conventions for the 08 range (Convention A8 of the draft Third Issue set out in the consultation document entitled Revising the National Numbering Conventions of February 2001) states that the 08 range has been designated exclusively for services charged at special rates, known as ‘Special Services’. The cost of the call to services in the 08 range are indicated by the following suffixes:

080 – ‘Freephone’, ie no charge to caller.

084 – Up to 5p/ local rate.

087 – Up to 10p/ national rate.

6.5 Oftel has agreed in the past that 084 and 087 numbers will either be paid for by the caller and the called party or paid for wholly by the caller. In theory, Special Service numbers are useful for information lines or a range of other useful business-type services where paying up to a local or national rate is convenient. But, some service providers appear to be deliberately using 087 numbers simply to gain extra revenue by, for instance, encouraging the use of 087 numbers for local residential use. This is disappointing as many of the services found in this numbering range in the UK are of a type that run behind freephone numbers in the USA. Oftel is of the opinion that this issue is fundamentally one of customer service and not of telecommunications policy. It should be borne in mind that companies revenue-sharing on an 087 advice line would appear to have an incentive to delay responding to customer calls as they are making money from that call. This would not appear to be entirely consistent with helping or advising their customers.

6.6 Recognising that there is a link, but that the future of revenue-shared services other than 070 is not so pressing, Oftel would propose to consider this area in the future once the immediate difficulty with Personal Numbering has been settled. However, Oftel is keen to stress that any changes in this area would be strongly guided by the principles of circumstance and proportionality.

6.7 Oftel would welcome views on this approach and views as to how, when, or if revenue-share works to assist consumers. Views on how to encourage a more responsible attitude amongst service providers and whether Oftel should do something in this regard now, or in the near future, would also be welcome.

Revising the existing price caps

6.8 Revising the price caps on 084 and 087 numbers is a further option that may be worthy of future consideration. The issue that Oftel would welcome views on here is whether the current pegging of 084 and 087 are still apposite.

6.9 When these price controls were put in place, it was intended that these number ranges would be used for information services and not for pseudo-PRS services (ie those that should be behind an 09 number). Since launch, the average cost of local or national calls has fallen below the 084/087 limits of 5ppm and 10ppm, respectively. It would therefore seem timely to consider whether these rates should be re-set to reflect more accurately the current real cost of local or national calls unless of course there is significant value added such as access to international services at national rates.

6.10 Although Oftel would be concerned that any action proposed was proportionate to the problem, it would be grateful for views as to whether these limits could usefully be revised and, if so, to what. Would, for instance, a new limit of up to 3ppm in 084, and up to 6ppm in 087, now be more appropriate?

Other considerations

6.11 Oftel believes that the current priority is to prevent abuses in the 070 range. However, Oftel recognises that issues, such as those outlined in this chapter, may need to be resolved in the not too distant future. Additionally, there may be other factors or issues that Oftel should consider.

6.12 Accordingly, Oftel is taking this opportunity to seek views on the future of all revenue-sharing outside of PRS (090/091). Views are also welcome on any other issues that respondents may feel are linked. Such views will help Oftel in its assessment of future project priorities and will act as a background to its immediate assessment of how best to resolve the Personal Numbering issue.


Consultation

7.1 The initial consultation will run until Thursday 19 July. A further two weeks will be allowed to submit comments on comments. The period of two months is appropriate as this abuse is significant and this will enable Oftel’s conclusions to be dealt with, if appropriate, alongside the implementation of the proposals set out in the consultation document entitled Revising the National Numbering Conventions.

7.2 Any comments on the proposed variations to the Conventions – or on any other issues arising out of this consultation document (including comments on any aspects of the Conventions for which Oftel has not proposed any changes in the substance – should be made in writing and sent to:

Josephine Ibegbuna
Conventions Consultation
Numbering Unit
Oftel
50 Ludgate Hill
London EC4M 7JJ
f
ax: 020 7634 8784
e-mail: josephine.ibegbuna@oftel.gov.uk

Internet access

7.3 Oftel has a free e-mail based mailing list to help people stay informed about its work. Each time an Oftel document is published and placed on Oftel’s website, subscribers to the list receive an e-mail informing them of the document. To register for this service you should visit the What’s New page on the Oftel website at www.oftel.gov.uk.

Confidential responses

7.4 Confidential responses should not be sent via the internet. Written comments will be made publicly available in Oftel’s Research and Intelligence Unit, except where a respondent indicates that a response, or part of it, is confidential. Respondents are therefore asked to separate any confidential material into a clearly marked annex. In the interests of transparency, respondents are asked to avoid confidential markings wherever possible.

Viewing comments made

7.5 Appointments to view written comments in Oftel’s Research and Intelligence Unit, which must be made in advance, can be arranged by ringing: 020 7634 8761 (fax: 020 7634 8946). If respondents would like to discuss the contents of this consultation document, please contact Nicholas Good on 020 7634 5333. 

Other formats

7.6 Copies of the full consultation document are available on disk. The Summary can be made available in large print, Braille and tape formats. Please contact the Oftel Research and Intelligence Unit on 020 7634 8761 for more information. Numbering information also appears on Oftel’s website, www.oftel.gov.uk.

Next Steps

7.7 Following the completion of the consultation exercise Oftel will publish a statement setting out its conclusions.

The Consultation Criteria

(1) Oftel considers that this document meets the Cabinet Office code of practice on written consultation documents. The code is reproduced below for convenience. If you have any comments or complaints about this consultation process please contact:

Robert Jex
Oftel
50 Ludgate Hill
London EC4M 7JJ

e-mail: rob.jex@oftel.gov.uk
Tel: 020 7634 5340
Fax: 020 7634 8943

(2) Timing of consultation should be built into the planning process for a policy (including legislation) or service from the start, so that it has the best prospect of improving the proposals concerned, and so that sufficient time is left for it at each stage.

(3) It should be clear who is being consulted, about what questions, in what timescale and for what purpose.

(4) A consultation document should be as simple and concise as possible. It should include a summary, in two main pages at most, of the main questions it seeks views on. It should make it as easy as possible for readers to respond, make contact or complain.

(5) Documents should be made widely available, with the fullest use of electronic means (though not to the exclusion of others), and effectively drawn to the attention of all interested groups and individuals.

(6) Sufficient time should be allowed for considered responses from all groups with an interest. Twelve weeks should be the standard minimum period for consultation.

(7) Responses should be carefully and open-mindedly analysed, and the results made widely available, with an account of the views expressed, and reasons for decisions finally taken.

(8) Departments should monitor and evaluate consultations, designating a consultation co-ordinator who will ensure that all the lessons are disseminated.

 


Draft Numbering Convention A7

A.1 Oftel proposes to insert the following text as new Convention A7 and it would replace draft Convention A7 of the third issue of the Numbering Conventions as published in the consultative document, Revising the National Numbering Conventions, of February 2001, when published later in 2001.

A.2 Details of how to comment on these texts are outlined in Chapter 7, Consultation, above.

A.3 In addition to the text outlined below, Oftel proposes to insert the following revised term of ‘Personal Numbering Service’ which would then replace the current suggested meaning of this term as set out in the draft Glossary the Third Issue of the Conventions to the above mentioned consultation document:

‘Personal Numbering Service

This is a service based on number translation that enables customers to be called, using a single personal telephone number, and to receive those calls at almost any telephone number, including mobile numbers. Personal numbers are suitable for customers who habitually move location. For the avoidance of doubt, personal numbers shall not be used for services that have all the characteristics of premium rate services, as set out in Conventions A9.2 and A9.3. In addition, revenue sharing between the holder of an 070 number and the personal numbering service provider shall not be permitted.’

‘A7: 07 RANGE – ‘Find-me-anywhere’ Services

A7.1 The 07 range has been designated for ‘Find-me-anywhere’ services. These are services that enable customers to be contacted, whatever their location, where the call charge is not distance dependent. Mobile, personal numbering and paging services shall only use the respective 07 range designated below:

070 Personal Numbering Services.
071 Protected – future use
072 Protected – future use
073 Protected – future use
074 Protected – future use
075 Protected – future use
076 Paging Services
077 Mobile Services
078 Mobile Services
079 Mobile Services

A7.2 In the 07 range, number blocks up to a maximum of 100,000 numbers will be allocated by Oftel, taking into account:

(a) demand forecasts;
(b) previous allocations and reservations by the applicant and others offering similar services; and
(c) the need to conserve capacity.

A7.3 ‘Find-me-anywhere’ services must be placed in the appropriate range.

A7.4 In particular, the only services allowed to be used for the 070 range shall be Personal Numbering Services, which enable customers to be called using a single telephone number and to receive those calls at virtually any telephone number, including mobile numbers. The range of 070 numbers is suitable for customers who habitually move location.

A7.5 For the avoidance of any doubt, the 070 range shall not be used for services that have the characteristics of premium rate services as set out in Conventions A9.2 and A9.3. In addition, revenue sharing between the holder of an 070 number and the personal numbering service provider shall not be permitted.

A7.6 Oftel may allocate 070 numbers in 10 000 number blocks at the applicant’s request where it considers this to be appropriate.’


Glossary

The Conventions: The United Kingdom’s National Numbering Conventions. These are a set of rules and principles that govern the use, management and allocation of numbers from the Scheme. It is a breach of the Numbering Arrangements Condition, contained in the licence granted to an operator under Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, for an operator to not have a Numbering Plan, or to have a Numbering Plan that does not accord with these Conventions.

The Director General: The Director General of Telecommunications.

ICSTIS: Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services.

The ICSTIS Code of Practice (Eighth Edition – March 1998): This Code covers the provision of premium rate services by means of a public telecommunications network. This Code applies to all premium rate services which are accessed by a customer in the United Kingdom, whether those services are provided from within the United Kingdom or from abroad and whether the service provider is situated within the United Kingdom or abroad.

Live Conversation Message Service: This means a message service (ie a service other than a directory information service, which consists of, or includes, the sending of speech, music or other sounds or signals to any person who obtains access to that service by means of a public switched network) which consists in the provision of live telephone conversation for any purpose, whether or not including the provision of information of any kind:

(i)between the person providing the service (or a person acting on his behalf) and a person who obtains the service; or
(ii)between a person who has independently called the service for the purpose of conducting a telephone conversation with one other such person, and such another person.

For the avoidance of doubt, this does not include a service provided by a human operator of the licensee in question which is incidental to the conveyance of a voice telephony message.

Numbering Plan: The plan that licensed operators shall adopt for such numbers as are allocated to them from the Scheme. The plan describes the method adopted, or to be adopted, for allocating and reallocating a number to any network termination point, user, telecommunication apparatus or service element. The Numbering Arrangements Condition in the licence granted under Section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 obliges a licensee to have a numbering plan that is consistent with the Conventions. Pursuant to that condition, the Director may request such information about the licensee’s operations under its numbering plan as he may reasonably require to administer the Scheme.

Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC): The Commissioner is an independent supervisory authority and has an international role as well as a national one. The Commissioner's powers stem from the 1984 Data Protection Act and subsequent Regulations (see TDPD below). In the UK the Commissioner has a range of duties including the promotion of good information handling and the encouragement of codes of practice for data controllers, that is, anyone who decides how and why personal data, (information about identifiable, living individuals) are processed.

Personal Number: A number, allocated by a PNSP to a person (or organisation), which is not itself linked to a network. A Personal Number is independent of a terminating network operator, and it is that independence which enables customers to control the delivery of incoming calls so that they can be reached anywhere, irrespective of location.

Personal Numbering Service (‘PNS’): This is a service based on number translation that enables customers to be called, using a single personal telephone number, and to receive those calls at almost any telephone number, including mobile numbers. Personal numbers are suitable for customers who habitually move location. For the avoidance of any doubt, personal numbers shall not be used for services that have the characteristics of premium rate services.

Personal Numbering Service Provider (PNSP): A provider of a PNS, not itself necessarily a network operator.

Premium Rate Service (PRS): This is a service, including recorded information and live conversation, run by independent service providers where all calls are charged at a higher rate than ordinary calls to cover the company’s costs in providing the content of the call and the operator’s costs for the special network facilities needed. The content element of a Premium Rate Content Service is regulated by ICSTIS.

Specified Numbering Scheme (SNS): The list of codes and numbers, published by Oftel on its website and updated, normally, on a weekly basis. The SNS List gives details of the current status of delegated parts of the Scheme, eg allocated, free, protected or reserved.

The Telecommunications (Data Protection and Privacy) Regulations 1998 (the ‘TDPD Regulations’): The Regulations that implemented the Telecommunications Data Protection Directive and which are enforced by the ODPC.

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