Own-initiative investigation into Switch Call Limited and Switch Services Limited about potential misuse of 070 numbers

05 April 2007

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Switch Call Ltd (“Switch Call”) and Switch Services Ltd (“Switch Services”)
Case opened: 29 September 2006
Case closed: 23 March 2007
Issue: Possible misuse of personal numbers.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement, which governs the allocation, adoption and use of telephone numbers.

Update Note – 5 April 2007

The notification issued to Switch Call under section 94 of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act’) on 23 March 2007 can now be found at the link below.

End of update note

In October 2006 Ofcom expanded the scope of this investigation to incorporate Switch Call, given that Switch Services is a 97% owned subsidiary of Switch Call.

Ofcom has now completed its investigation and issued a notification to Switch Call under section 94 of the Act.

Ofcom’s investigation found that there were reasonable grounds for believing that Switch Call has contravened, and is contravening, General Condition 17.8 of the General Conditions of Entitlement. Specifically, Switch Call has failed to take all reasonably practicable steps to secure that its customers comply with the provisions of General Condition 17 and the National Telephone Numbering Plan (“the Plan”) with regard to 070 numbers.

Switch Call is now required to provide a compliance plan to Ofcom, detailing the steps that Switch Call intends to take to comply with General Condition 17 and to remedy this contravention. Ofcom’s notification requires that the compliance plan must set out “reasonable and realistic” deadlines by which Switch Call will carry out these steps.

Switch Call has until 24 April 2007 to comply with Ofcom’s notification and to make representations to Ofcom.

If Switch Call does not comply, Ofcom will consider whether further enforcement action, including imposing a penalty, is appropriate.

A non-confidential version of the notification and the accompanying explanatory statement are currently being prepared and will be published shortly.

Case Leader: Sue Merrifield ( e-mail:sue.merrifield@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00921/09/06

Text published when the case was opened

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Complaint against: Switch Services Ltd (‘Switch Services')
Case opened: 29 September 2006
Issue: Possible misuse of personal numbers and the possible persistent misuse of an electronic communications network or service.
Relevant instrument: General Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement, which governs the allocation, adoption and use of telephone numbers, and section 128 of the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act'), which relates to the persistent misuse of networks or services.

Ofcom has received over 250 complaints from mobile phone users about missed calls from 070 numbers allocated to Switch Services. 070 numbers such as these may be sub-allocated by Switch Services to other service providers who run the services offered behind such numbers. It is alleged that when the 070 numbers in question have been called back a recorded message is received and a charge is made for the call. Some mobile phone users report receiving a high number of these missed calls.

Ofcom has therefore opened an investigation to consider whether Switch Services has contravened Condition 17 of the General Conditions of Entitlement (‘General Condition 17') governing the allocation, adoption and use of telephone numbers. General Condition 17 requires that a Communications Provider install, maintain and adjust its Public Electronic Communications Networks so that it operates in accordance with the National Telephone Numbering Plan ("the Numbering Plan").

In particular Ofcom's investigation will focus on General Condition 17.8 which requires communications providers to take all reasonably practicable steps to secure that those to whom it sub-allocates such numbers, comply with the provisions of this Condition and the provisions of the Numbering Plan.

The Numbering Plan designates the services that can be run on different number ranges and places certain restrictions on the adoption of telephone numbers. Numbers in the 070 number range are designated in the Numbering Plan as being for Personal Numbering Services.

Ofcom will also investigate whether Switch Services Ltd has contravened section 128 of the Act, which relates to the persistent misuse of networks or services.

A person misuses a network or service if the effect or likely effect of his use of the network or service is to cause another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety, or he uses the network or service to engage in conduct the effect or likely effect of which is to cause another person unnecessarily to suffer annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety.

As part of its investigation, Ofcom will seek to identify whether any missed calls were made by Switch Services or by other parties to which Switch Services has sub-allocated the 070 numbers in question.

Case Leader: Sue Merrifield ( e-mail:sue.merrifield@ofcom.org.uk)
Case Reference: CW/00921/09/06