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how does premium rate access on the internet work?

Some of the common questions we get asked about websites charged at premium rates.

what is a dialler?

Rather than requesting payment by credit card, many sites allow users to charge their telephone bills. This is done by means of a piece of software known as a 'dialler'. If a user wishes to access this content, they should be prompted to download the software and install it. The user should then be guided through the terms and conditions of the service, including the cost to be incurred. Once these conditions have been accepted, the dialler will then connect to the premium rate number (up to £1.50 per minute). An on-screen clock should be provided to monitor cumulative costs, and the user should be prevented from accessing other free websites not related to the service.

Click here to view the icstis consumer guide to premium rate services on the internet - This factsheet offers information on how premium rate access on the Internet works and how to avoid potential problems.

does my monthly subscription to my ISP include charges for connections to premium rate websites?

If you pay monthly for unlimited web access, premium rate calls will not be included in the monthly charges. The use of dialler software ensures that charges for accessing premium rate websites are added directly to your telephone bill.

Whilst icstis insists that cost warnings are given on these websites prior to connection, we know that some users, including children and teenagers, ignore the warnings in the mistaken belief that the household ISP monthly fee will cover the cost of access. They may also believe that the bill-payer will not detect the nature of the websites used. You should be particularly alert to this type of unauthorised use in your household and to the possibility that household members, including children or teenagers, could have been accessing websites which are adult in nature.

We would suggest that you explain to all household members that premium rate charged websites are not included in your ISP charge package and point out that continued unauthorised use of these websites will be visible on future phone bills.

how can you stop unexpected premium rate use in future?

You can prevent any premium rate service being used from either your telephone or computer by asking for premium rate call barring on your phone line. Your telephone company will give you details of call barring arrangements. If you use more than one provider you will need to arrange call barring with each provider that you use. For example, if you are a BT customer with premium rate call barring but sometimes use another telephone company (a pre-selected carrier such as One-Tel), you will need to contact both providers.

If you are concerned about the accessibility of adult material to children in your household via your PC we suggest that you install one of the parental control programmes that are available. The majority of premium rate websites are compatible with these programmes. You will find the "Safe Surfing" section of the Internet Watch Foundation's website gives helpful information and links.

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