Ofcom probes TV phone-in rip off

Media regulator Ofcom is launching an inquiry into premium rate telecoms services in television programmes. The investigation follows a number of inquiries launched by premium phone services regulator Icstis.

Broadcasters including ITV, BBC and Channel 4 were forced to pull premium services amid allegations consumers were being ripped off. Previously, the media regulator insisted that the remit lay with Icstis but following complaints from viewers and other stakeholders it is launching its own inquiry.

A statement says concerns centre around “apparent systematic compliance failure” by a number of broadcasters whose actions appear to “contravene” existing consumer protection rules.

The inquiry will be led by Richard Ayre, who is a non-executive member of the Ofcom content board and will include input from Icstis. Ayre is expected to report his findings to the Ofcom board and the content board by early summer.

The inquiry will examine consumer protection issues and audiences’ attitudes to the use of PRS in television programmes, the benefits and risks to broadcasters in the use of PRS in programmes, the respective compliance and editorial responsibilities of broadcasters, producers and telecoms network operators and others involved in those programmes and the effectiveness of broadcasters’ and telecoms operators’ internal compliance procedures, guidelines and arrangements to ensure compliance with Ofcom and ICSTIS codes.

The inquiry will also propose recommendations on actions necessary to restore confidence and trust.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards says: “Ofcom has been monitoring the issue closely and has launched a number of individual investigations since the start of the year. However, it is clear from the number of cases underway that a broader set of issues need to be examined as a matter of priority.”

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