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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Rogue net diallers prompt review
Hand on keyboard
Some diallers can install themselves automatically
The regulation of premium rate, 090, phone services is to be reviewed by the communications watchdog Ofcom, in an attempt to cut fraudulent activity.

Of particular concern recently has been the rise in complaints to the premium rate watchdog, Icstis, about rogue internet diallers.

These automatically change a user's net provider, dialling up a premium rate number when they next go online.

Icstis said that in many cases, users failed to read the small print.

After investigation it emerged that, in some cases, changes in net settings were made without the user's knowledge by software programs hidden within spam e-mail or web pop-ups.

Some web users reported subsequent phone bills as high as 1,500 because the program used the premium rate number over the user's usual service provider, like BT or AOL.

One symptom

The wide-ranging review is to examine whether other industry bodies could play a bigger role in dealing with such practices and others, Rob Dwight from Icstis told BBC News Online.

Mr Dwight said that rogue dialling was just one symptom of bad premium rate practices and that the review needed to examine whether other bodies had better regulatory tools.

To be a rogue dialler, the software that leads you to phone up the service has to have been installed without your knowledge
Rob Dwight, Icstis
Many of the complaints Icstis had received about rogue internet diallers had in fact been down to web users not fully understanding terms and conditions about legitimate premium rate net dialling services.

"A lot of the problem is lack of consumer understanding about how premium rate services work," he said.

"You have people going on a site, understanding what it is, but they are under the illusion that the subscription for their net service provider is all they have to pay."

He continued: "To be a rogue dialler, the software that leads you to phone up the service has to have been installed without your knowledge.

"It embeds itself on a PC, and so all net connections through that rather than usual net service provider."

He said many services promoted on websites or through other means, like SMS, also had misleading advertising about pricing.

He said although the rogue dialler problem was not as widespread as people were led to believe, it was happening and needed to be sorted out.

Icstis is currently looking at a dozen cases of rogue diallers which have switched web users' service providers without their prior knowledge.

In July, Icstis announced new rules requiring premium rate providers to pre-register with it before offering legitimate net dial-up services.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville
"There's been an explosion in the number of complaints"

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Action call on premium rate fraud
02 Jul 04  |  Norfolk


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