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PhonepayPlus (formerly known as ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services) is the regulatory body for all premium rate phone-paid services in the United Kingdom. These are the goods and services that consumers can buy by charging the cost to their phone bills and pre-pay phone accounts.
ICSTIS was founded by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, at the request of 3 network operators, British Telecom, Mercury Communications and Vodafone as a response to public criticism of their profiting from adult premium rate content.
It regulates services using a Code of Practice, approved by Ofcom. This sets out the rules with which all providers of phone-paid services must comply. Among other things, it requires clear and accurate pricing information, honest advertising and service content, and appropriate and targeted promotions.
PhonepayPlus investigates complaints about phone-paid services. Where it decides that its rules have been broken, it can fine the company responsible, bar access to its services, and even bar the individual behind the company from running other services under a different company name. Investigations and adjudications are free to consumers and fully independent. Unusually for an independent regulator any fines issued are kept for the benefit of the regulator rather than refunding consumers affected.
PhonepayPlus regulates services using the following number ranges:0871, 0872, 0873, 090x, 091x, 098x and 118xxx.
When PhonepayPlus upholds a breach of its Code, the company responsible must immediately amend the service and/or its promotional material so that it complies with the Code. In most cases, companies found in breach of the Code will be charged to cover the cost of the investigation.
PhonepayPlus also has the power to impose the following sanctions:
- formal reprimands
- making companies come to the regulator for prior approval
- ordering companies to pay full refunds to complainants
- imposing fines
- barring access to services
- banning named persons from operating services
PhonepayPlus held a consultation on its latest Code of Practice, which closed in January 2011.
Chairs of the board have included:
- Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, Lawyer
- Brenda Dean, Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Trade Unionist
- Sir Peter North (academic)
- Sir Alistair Graham, Fmr Chair of the Committee on standards in public life
Members of the board have included:
- Matti Alderson, regulator
- Dr. Howard Baderman, A & E consultant
- Ruth Evans
- Hugh Griffiths,Telecoms veteran
- Jeremy Hallsworth, Chief Executive Officer of BT agilemedia
- Valerie Howarth, Baroness Howarth of Breckland, Child care activist and founder of Childline
- Yvonne Light, Writer & journalist
- Kate Marcus, Barrister
- Claire Milne, Telecoms veteran
- Mark Stephens (solicitor), Lawyer, mediator and regulator
- Howard Webber, Consumer champion
- Paul Whiteing, regulator