UK Phone Regulator Acts After TV Phone-In Scams Exposed

12 March 2007

LONDON: The current furore over TV phone-in scams is set to trigger long overdue action to police consumer abuse by premium rate phone companies, television production firms and broadcasters.

ITV, Channel 4 and Five - even the BBC - have been tainted by association with shows that invited the public to participate in quizzes or vote on various issues by calling premium-rate telephone numbers.

In many cases, the telephone lines remained open and viewers were encouraged to keep calling even though the shows had already selected winners or voting closed.

The resulting brouhaha finally triggered action by ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services), a torpid voluntary watchdog funded by the premium call-rate telecommunications industry.

After meeting and discussing the issue with broadcasters last week, the regulator asked them as an "absolute priority" to instigate a full review of all current and forthcoming premium rate services.

There is also talk of a "licensing regime" for premium call-rate suppliers, although it is a long march from talk to action.

Said ICSTIS chairman Sir Alistair Graham: "There is no doubt that public trust and confidence in these services has been damaged by the allegations that have been made in the last few weeks."

Hands aloft in pious indignation Graham - a serial chairman of toothless public watchdogs - continued: "It is in everyone's interest to ensure that services are reliable and trustworthy as well as entertaining and fun."

TV watchdog Ofcom is also to investigate the affair.

Data sourced from BBC Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff