PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

'FUNNY FAX' FIRM TO BE BANNED

Telephone services watchdog ICSTIS has recommended that a company whose series of 'funny faxes' was found to have caused grave and widespread offence be banned. The company was also found to have failed to ensure that its faxes did not reach an inappropriate audience.

The ban on Fax Data Services Ltd, of Wimpole Street, London W1, will prevent it from operating any premium rate service for one year. In addition, the company and its directors will be required to give assurances to ICSTIS that they will not operate any premium rate service in the future which, in any way, breaches the Code of Practice. The recommendation to bar access to the company's services will now be actioned by the network operator involved, Torch Telecom, in accordance with their procedures.

ICSTIS received almost 350 complaints - including ones from a hospice, a leading charity and several schools - about the company's various £1.00 per minute promotional faxes which were sent, unsolicited, to offices and people's homes, often in the middle of the night. The vast majority of complaints concerned the offensive and obscene nature of the faxes, the titles of which included All About Sex, Lunchtime Menu (Suc Mi Pogoda), The Poo Guide, Toilet Talk and You Know You Need A Shag When….

"We regard the breaches as very serious," says ICSTIS Director Sarah Harrison. "A great deal of advice was given to Fax Data Services to enable them to comply with the Code of Practice but this advice was not heeded. Although compliance with the ICSTIS Code of Practice is generally very good, we will continue to take tough action to safeguard consumers against those companies who breach the Code."

Fax Data Services Ltd was fined £1,000 in July 1997 for distributing similarly offensive faxes.

For further information contact:

Rob Dwight Tel: 0171 420 4408 (Office Hours)/0181 304 8298 (Outside Office Hours)

NOTES

1. ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, is the industry-funded watchdog for premium rate telephone services. The Committee currently consists of eight members.

2. Operators of premium rate services, whether recorded or live, are bound by the terms of their contracts with the network operators (BT, Cable and Wireless, Global Numbers, Norweb Communications, Orange, Redstone Network Services, Scottish Telecom, The Cable Corporation, Torch Telecom, Vodafone Value Added Services, Worldcom and Yorkshire Cable Company) to abide by the provisions of the ICSTIS Code of Practice.

Where a company fails to do this, ICSTIS may make a recommendation to the network operator to remove the service from the telephone network and may consider imposing further sanctions.

3. The £160 million per year premium rate industry provides services ranging from competitions, weather forecasts and horoscopes to dating, racing tipster and sex lines. These are currently accessible on 50 different dialling codes. Increasingly, services are available not only by telephone but also by fax and computer and from overseas, from countries such as Guyana and Hong Kong. Approximately 20,000 services are in operation at any one time and it is estimated that over four million calls are made each week to these lines.

4. Customers on digital exchanges can request that access is barred from their telephones, either to all premium rate services or just to those dialling codes used for adult or live services. Customers can find out more information about call barring from their telephone companies.

5. ICSTIS OPERATES A FREEPHONE COMPLAINTS LINE ON 0800 500 212.