ICSTIS Guideline No. 5

Non-live services which require prior permission
Guidelines for applicants

(Version 1: 9 March 1998)

Introduction

ICSTIS Guidelines are intended to advise the premium rate services industry on how the Committee interprets or applies provisions in the ICSTIS Codes of Practice. Service providers seeking clarity about the application of any code provision to a particular service are strongly advised to contact the Secretariat before starting to operate the service.

A current list of all the latest versions of ICSTIS Guidelines appears in the ICSTIS Monthly Report and on the ICSTIS website. Copies of Guidelines are available, free of charge, from the Secretariat.

A. SERVICES WHICH REQUIRE PRIOR PERMISSION

Paragraph 2.3.1 of the ICSTIS Code of Practice states that:

'ICSTIS may require that particular categories of service must not be provided unless ICSTIS has given its prior written permission for any service within that category. ICSTIS will give reasonable notice of such a requirement and the category of service to which it applies and will publish a full list of such service categories from time to time. Prior permission may be granted subject to the imposition of additional requirements. Such permission may be withdrawn upon reasonable grounds and with notice in writing.'

The services which are required to have prior permission to operate are listed in guideline No. 3.

B. CONSIDERATION OF APPLICATIONS

a) Services unlikely to be granted permission

An application will not be granted permission if, in the opinion of ICSTIS, the service is one:

(i) which would breach the ICSTIS Code,
(ii) where insufficient information has been made available to accurately access the application,
(iii) which otherwise presents a serious risk of consumer harm.

b) Avoiding consumer harm

Certain services will be subject to more conditions than others depending on the degree of potential consumer harm. The Committee will consider each application on its merits and encourage service providers to build consumer safeguards into their services, rather than having them imposed.

The Committee will consider all the characteristics of the service including its type, structure, promotional material and target audience. Some services are more likely to cause consumer harm With this in mind, the main factor the Committee will consider when assessing an application is the likelihood of the service giving rise to high bills and/or unauthorised use or being attractive to vulnerable groups of consumers.

Services that are therefore likely to attract conditions are entertainment services such as chatlines. Business information and advice lines are unlikely to attract many conditions. The service may, however, also have in-built safeguards (for example, additional price messages) which help to reduce the risk of consumer harm and which, therefore, reduce the likelihood of conditions being imposed.

c) Service characteristics

The following characteristics of the service are likely to be important in the Committee's decision whether to impose conditions and what type of conditions to impose:

(i) Service type. Some services, such as entertainment services, are more likely to give rise to unauthorised use and/or high bills. These services are likely to be subject to conditions.

(ii) Promotional restrictions. A service which has promotional material aimed at a restricted audience is much less likely to attract conditions. For example, a service which the service provider states in their application will be solely advertised in the Financial Times, or any similar periodical targeted at private investors seeking information is less likely to have many conditions imposed. By contrast, a service aimed at the general public and advertised widely on television is more likely to have conditions imposed.

(iii) Content restrictions. A service which is confined to a specific, narrow type of content is much less likely to attract conditions. For example, a service giving timetable information is less likely to have many conditions imposed. By contrast, an open-ended general consumer advice service is more likely to have conditions imposed.

(iv) Price. The cost of a service will influence the Committee's decision - a problem service running at a more expensive rate will simply cause bigger problems.

d) Types of condition

Entertainment services and business services might typically be subject to the following conditions:

(i) Additional price message requirements. A service which is unlikely to lead to unauthorised use and/or high bills but which may involve lengthy call durations could be permitted subject to consumers being warned during the service about the mounting call costs. This will enable consumers to make an informed decision about whether to continue with the service. An example might be a condition to warn the caller about the cost of the call every £5.00 of call spend.

(ii) Maximum call limits. Some services may involve lengthy calls. This can be due to the nature of the content, for example a computer software helpline service which involves an assessment of a specific problem. To avoid the build up of high bills the Committee may require the imposition of a maximum call duration to ensure that a cut-off point exists, after which the consumer will have to redial to contact the service again - this will involve a conscious decision.

Services aimed at restricted groups, for example a computer helpline which only consumers who purchased a certain product are likely to want to access are less likely to have this condition attached. Services which are widely advertised and accessible, are likely to attract repeat, and possibly unauthorised use, and high bills are more likely to have such a condition imposed. Such a condition may be in the form of a maximum duration, for example, 30 minutes, or a maximum call spend, for example, £10.00 per call.

e) Which conditions?

The mix of conditions may be different for each service, depending on the type and format of the service. For example, an advice service with broad appeal and promoted in major newspapers might be subject to a maximum call duration and additional price warnings. The same service, less widely promoted might not be subject to such conditions. The Committee's objective is to only permit services which do not cause an unacceptable risk of consumer harm.

If you are in any doubt please contact the Secretariat.

C. APPLICATION PROCEDURE

Service providers are advised to discuss all potential applications initially with the Secretariat prior to their presentation to the Committee. This will provide the opportunity, as necessary, to clarify aspects of the application and incorporate any initial recommendations or adjustments.

All applications should be made in writing to: ICSTIS, Alton House, 177 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7AA.

Your written application should include all of the information (where relevant) requested in the application form.

D. TIMING

The time it takes to complete consideration of an application for approval will depend largely on the nature of the service and the issues it raises. However, it is intended that ICSTIS will be working to an average processing time for applications of one month. Please note that the application form should be completed fully in order to avoid delay.

E. PERMISSION

a) Committee permission will be given for the service on the basis of the information given concerning programme content, structure, promotion and targeting. Where appropriate, the Committee may require scripts to be provided.

b) All permissions will be confirmed in writing with both the service provider and the relevant network operator.

c) Any service given permission must comply with all the provisions of the ICSTIS Codes. Permission for a service may be withdrawn if changes are subsequently made without first discussing it with ICSTIS.

d) The service provider should notify ICSTIS of the applicable telephone number when the service commences. If the service fails to commences within six months from the date of the permission certificate, or having commenced does not operate for any continuous period of six months, then the permission certificate would cease to be valid and the service provider would need to re-apply for permission.