Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative
Complaint against: Originating Communications Providers (OCPs) who provide access to Premium Rate Services (PRS) and/or Number Translation Services (NTS)
Case opened: 18 March 2008
Investigation closed: 17 December 2008
Case closed: 8 May 2009
Issue: PRS and NTS Codes of Practice
Relevant instrument: General Condition 10 (GC 10) and General Condition 14 (GC 14) of the General Conditions of Entitlement
Ofcom has now completed its assessment of industry compliance with General Condition 14.2 and General Condition 10 (GC14.2 and GC10).
Ofcom opened this enforcement programme to ensure that OCPs serving residential and small business customers for NTS and PRS calls were complying with GC14.2 and GC.10. Specifically, OCPs are required to provide accurate and readily accessible information relating to charges for NTS and PRS calls. This includes quoting the maximum price of an NTS call in their advertising and promotional material that refers to call pricing, alongside a clear reference as to where on relevant websites and published price lists the complete set of maximum prices applying to NTS calls can be found.
Ofcom monitored compliance by the following OCPs:
|Fixed providers||Mobile Providers|
This programme has been in compliance since December 2008 whilst we collected evidence from the OCPs named above to assess compliance with these General Conditions. All have now provided Ofcom with advertising and promotional material demonstrating that they are compliant. As a result, we consider that these providers have achieved the currently required level of transparency with regards to providing consumers with NTS and PRS call price information. Therefore, Ofcom has now closed this enforcement programme.
Ofcom recently announced that it has made amendments to GC 14. Specifically it has modified the definition of an Originating Communications Provider to include any Communications Provider that provides call origination services to domestic and small business customers, and not only Communications Providers with their own networks. This clarification forms part of a range of measures to improve price transparency and strengthen consumer protection for calls to 0870 numbers.
Update note: 17 December 2008
During the course of this investigation we wrote to a number of OCPs to advise them that they should take action to ensure they comply with GC 14.2 and GC 10. These OCPs have now provided Ofcom with written assurances that they will ensure compliance and, where appropriate, have provided Ofcom with advertising and promotional material demonstrating that they are now adhering to these General Conditions.
While Ofcom has now closed this investigation we will continue to monitor whether OCPs are meeting their obligations.
Call price advertising
GC 14.2, Annex 2, 4.1 requires that: Originating Communications providers shall publish in their advertising and promotional material which refer to call pricing, alongside maximum prices applying to NTS Calls, a clear reference as to where on websites and published price lists the complete set of NTS Call charges as specified in paragraph 3.2, can be found.
During our investigation, several providers asked us whether advertising and promotional material for inclusive packages (e.g. 49 per month, includes 300 minutes and 300 texts) constitutes advertising and promotional material which refer to call pricing, as specified in GC 14.2, Annex 2, 4.1. The purpose of GC 14.2 is to ensure that consumers can easily find out how much it will cost them to call NTS numbers. This objective is valid irrespective of whether consumers purchase a contract with individual call pricing or a call package, which may bundle calls with other services. GC 14.2, Annex 2, 4.1 therefore applies equally to advertising and promotional material for inclusive packages.
Update note 18 September 2008
This investigation to date has considered information from a number of OCPs to help us assess whether they are complying with GC14.2 and GC.10. We consider that action is needed by a number of providers to ensure that they are providing accurate and readily accessible information relating to charges for NTS and PRS calls, including quoting the maximum price of an NTS call in their advertising and promotional material that refers to call pricing.
A number of OCPs have sought additional time to make the necessary changes to their advertising and promotional material.
Ofcom has therefore decided to extend this own-initiative investigation by a further 3 months to assess industry compliance with GC14.2 and GC.10.
End of update note
Update note 9 April 2008
As a result of its initial analysis Ofcom has extended the scope of this investigation to include compliance with General Condition 10 (10.2 and 10.3), which requires Communications Providers to publish, among other things, clear and up to date information on their applicable prices and tariffs on any relevant website operated or controlled by the Communications Provider, where such a website exists.
End of update note
Text published when the case was opened
GC14.2 requires all OCPs who bill domestic and small business customers for NTS and PRS calls to establish, maintain and comply with a Code of Practice for the provision of information relating to PRS and a Code of Practice for NTS calls. Those Codes must be consistent with the guidelines set out at Annex 1 (PRS) and Annex 2 (NTS) to GC 14.
Ofcom conducted a previous investigation into compliance with GC 14.2 which was closed on 14 March 2007 (CW/00918/08/06). That investigation revealed non-compliance by several OCPs with respect to their Codes. Ofcom closed the case after receiving commitments from OCPs that they would amend their Codes to be compliant with GC 14.2, but stated that it would continue to monitor ongoing compliance. Ofcom has opened this investigation as part of that ongoing compliance monitoring.
Background on NTS and PRS
NTS and PRS numbers are examples of non-geographic numbers (most start with 08 or 09) that do not relate to a specific geographic location, but instead relate to a particular service.
NTS services include information services, some technical helplines, access to telephone banking, sales and customer service lines and dial-up pay-as-you- go Internet services.
PRS services include TV voting lines, competitions, scratchcards, adult entertainment, chat lines, business information services, technical helplines, mobile phone ringtones and game downloads, horoscopes and interactive TV games. Directory enquiry services (on 118xxx) also fall within the definition of premium rate services for the purposes of the Act.
Case Leader: Jasminder Oberoi ( e-mail:email@example.com)
Case Reference: CW/00980/03/08