Second ICSTIS complaint regarding the failure of Talkline Communications Ltd to comply with ICSTIS Directions

16 February 2006

Complainant: The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services ("ICSTIS")
Complaint against: Talkline Communications Ltd (“Talkline”)
Case opened: 4 November 2005
Case closed: 13 February 2006
Issue: ICSTIS, the premium rate services regulator, has alleged that Talkline has failed to comply with Directions made by ICSTIS under its Code of Practice and that, as such, Talkline is in breach of the condition made by Ofcom under section 120 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”) for the purpose of regulating the provision, content, promotion and marketing of premium rate services (“the PRS Condition”).
Relevant instrument: Section 120 of the Communications Act 2003

Ofcom has become aware that Talkline has now discontinued all operations and for this reason Ofcom has closed this investigation.

Ofcom will continue to work closely with ICSTIS and other enforcement bodies in monitoring the Premium Rate Services market and will act swiftly where there is evidence of serious consumer harm.

Text published when the case was opened

Update note - 17 January 2006

The Direction of 16 December 2005 that Ofcom issued to Talkline under section 124 of the Communications Act 2003 requiring Talkline to immediately suspend its provision of all premium rate services provided by it is available at the link below.

The Explanatory Statement that accompanied the Direction contained information of a sensitive and/or confidential nature and is not being placed on Ofcom’s website at this time.

End of update note

Update note - 19 December 2005

On 16 December 2005 Ofcom issued a Direction under section 124 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”), which requires the immediate suspension of premium rate services provided by Talkline Communications Limited.

Ofcom’s Direction, issued under its section 124(2) ‘urgent case’ powers, requires Talkline to immediately suspend all premium rate services currently operated over its network until such time as Ofcom may revoke the direction or otherwise modify it. This is the first time Ofcom has used these powers.

Ofcom’s action under section 124(2) of the Act follows extensive evidence supplied to Ofcom by ICSTIS, the premium rate regulator responsible for regulating the content, promotion and overall operation of premium rate services in the UK.

Following receipt of consumer complaints ICSTIS issued a number of Directions to Talkline about prize line services being run on premium rate numbers allocated to Talkline. ICSTIS alleged that Talkline has repeatedly failed to comply with a series of these ICSTIS Directions.

Ofcom has considered the evidence provided by ICSTIS and is satisfied that:

  1. Talkline both has been, and is still, in contravention of the PRS Condition;
  2. that the circumstances of the contravention make it appropriate for Ofcom to give a direction to Talkline to immediately suspend its provision of premium rate services; and
  3. that giving a direction to suspend premium rate services is urgently required for reasons of public policy and in particular in order to protect consumers from the risk of further harm.

Under Ofcom’s procedure for urgent cases, Talkline has not been given the opportunity to make representations in advance of the Direction being issued. Talkline will now be given an opportunity to make representations, but the Direction will continue in force until such time as Ofcom considers it appropriate to revoke it.

Ofcom’s investigations into outstanding ICSTIS referrals in relation to Talkline remain ongoing.

A non-confidential version of the Direction is currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

End of update note

Under the PRS Condition made by Ofcom under section 120 of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom requires that Communications Providers comply with Directions given by ICSTIS. ICSTIS is responsible for regulating the content, promotion and overall operation of premium rate services in the UK. ICSTIS does this through its Code of Practice (“the ICSTIS Code”).

Ofcom closed an investigation into Talkline on 3 November 2005 by issuing a notification under section 94 of the Act, setting out its conclusion that there were reasonable grounds for believing that Talkline was in contravention of the PRS Condition as a result of its failure to comply with Directions given to it by ICSTIS. Full details of the case can be found at:
http://www.ofcom.org.uk/bulletins/comp_bull_index/comp_bull_ccases/closed_all/cw_846/.

Ofcom has now received further complaints from ICSTIS in relation to other Directions issued to Talkline.

On 18 August 2005 ICSTIS issued Directions to Talkline to pay over revenues that it had been directed to withhold from certain service providers. These Directions required that the respective monies be paid over to ICSTIS within 30 days of the date of the Directions.

On 24 August 2005 ICTSIS issued Directions to Talkline about another prize line service being run on premium rate numbers allocated to Talkline. These Directions required Talkline to terminate access to the prize line service, withhold revenue generated by it and supply certain specified information.

ICSTIS alleges that Talkline failed to comply with the Directions of 18 and 24 August 2005 or was late in complying with them. ICSTIS submitted copies of correspondence between it and Talkline as supporting evidence in relation to both referrals.

Ofcom considers it is appropriate for it to investigate these allegations of failure to comply with the Directions further.

Case Leader: Marvin Luttrell ( e-mail:marvin.luttrell@ofcom.org.uk
Case Reference: CW/00871/10/05