Regulation of premium rate telephone services
Since 12 July 2010 premium rate telephone services in Ireland are regulated by ComReg (Commission for Communications Regulation). It was previously regulated by RegTel. Comreg operates through a strict Code of Practice, which all service providers in Ireland must comply with.
ComReg is also required to assure consumer protection when using national or international premium rate services and to also set in place procedures to deal with consumer complaints that arise from using these services.
What are premium rate telephone services?
Premium rate telephone services are services provided by companies or individuals on premium rate telephone numbers. The range of services on offer include general information such as Weather Forecasting, Traffic News, Stock Exchange Reports and Sport Results, as well as Advice and Entertainment services.
These services are sometimes referred to as Information Services and can be recognised by their unique range of prefixes: 15xx. The 1598 prefix is dedicated solely to "adult" services.
There are also Premium Rate SMS Services (known as PSMS) and these are recognised by a 5 digit Short Code beginning with the number 5, for example, a service providing ringtones. Services of a sexual nature use a 5 digit Short Code beginning with the numbers 57.
Premium rate services are accessed either through fixed-line telephones, mobile phones, the Internet or through auto-diallers on personal computers. The services are advertised in print media and on television, radio and the Internet.
Calls to premium rate services cost more than ordinary telephone calls and each prefix has a specific call cost. Call charges from mobile phones are generally higher and the surcharge varies according to the mobile network operator. Premium rate call charges are billed to consumers' telephone accounts and are generally listed separately. The overall charge to the consumer is shared between the network operator, the service provider or anyone else who contributes to the provision of the service.
If you would like to have all premium rate services barred from your telephone, you should contact your telephone service provider. Some telephone service providers provide this service free of charge.
Unsubscribing from a text service
If you want to unsubscribe from a Premium Rate SMS Service use the reply button on your mobile to the last message you received and send the word stop. If you do not have a 5 digit number to send it to, ask your mobile telephone network operator for the number attached to the last message you received. You should be unsubscribed within 48 hours of sending the stop command.
Service Providers must comply fully with the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 1988, (and any amendment or replacement legislation) with regard to the collection, processing, keeping, use and disposal of personal data.
Services that involve the collection of personal information, such as names, addresses and telephone numbers (including calling line identification or caller display information) must make clear to you the reason why this information is required. If personal information held about you is being put to different use, you must be notified of this use to give you an opportunity to prevent this, if you wish.
Advertising of premium rate telephone services
The advertisement of premium rate telephone services in Ireland on television, print media and radio and online must comply with standards to protect consumers. For example, no premium rate service may be promoted as being "free". No product or service may be described as "free" if it is obtainable only by the use of a premium rate service.
Provision of Services
Premium rate services must be authorised by ComReg and network operators must not issue a Premium Rate Number or a SMS Short Code until they receive the ComReg letter of authorisation.
An age warning must be given wherever a service is not aimed at children. This applies especially to competitions, all chat/dating services, ringtones & Logos, games and all subscription services.
Where a particular type of service requires a price warning, the caller, on spending the specified monetary amount, must be made aware of that spend.
Service providers must provide a live operator consumer helpline to handle consumer queries and complaints. This helpline must operate during normal office hours.
International Audiotex Regulators Network
The International Audiotex Regulators Network (IARN) is a network of of organisations that are involved in the regulation of, or the setting of standards for, the content and promotion of premium rate services in their own countries. It maintains a set of guidelines known as the IARN handbook (pdf) which advises on requirements to assure consumer protection when using national or international premium rate services.
If you have a complaint or concern, contact the premium rate service provider with your complaint. If you are not satisfied with their response you can submit your complaint to ComReg. Complaints must be made within 9 months of use of the service, however, exceptions to this rule are entirely at the discretion of the Regulator. It is also important to note that all complaints are dealt with in confidence.
You should note that disputes regarding or concerning the call cost of a premium rate service cannot be dealt with by ComReg. You will need to get in touch directly with the service provider to make your complaint.
There is no charge for making a complaint to ComReg.
How to apply
You should first contact your service provider with your complaint. If the complaint relates to an advertisement of a service in print, radio or television, you should mention the date, time, location and media in which the advertisement appeared. If you are not satisfied you can submit our complaint to ComReg.
ComReg will investigate all complaints made within 9 months from when the call was made or when the promotional materials concerned was published.
Where to apply