LIVE CONVERSATION SERVICES CODE OF PRACTICE
|1||INTRODUCTION||4||COMPENSATION SCHEME RULES|
|2.1||Monitoring||5||PROCEDURES AND SANCTIONS|
|2.2||Employment and Training||5.1||Standard procedure|
|2.3||Introductory messages||5.2||Emergency procedure|
|2.4||Content of conversations||5.3||Disclosure of information|
|2.5||Expert or specialist services||5.4||Oral hearings|
|2.6||Under age callers||5.5||Adjudication|
|2.7||Unauthorised use of the telephone||5.6||Reviews|
|3||PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL AND ADVERTISING||5.7||Sanctions|
LIVE CONVERSATION SERVICES CODE OF PRACTICE
Premium Rate Services involving two way live
speech* are regulated by this Code which is recognised by the Director General
of Telecommunications ('the Director'). It supersedes all previous Codes
recognised by the Director.
There is also a general code (called 'the
ICSTIS Code of Practice') mainly covering recorded services, the provisions
of which (excluding those which clearly only have application to recorded
services) also apply to Live Conversation Message Services. You need to
read both these Codes.
*These services are described as Controlled
Services, an expression which includes Live Conversation Message Services,
both defined in the Telecommunications Act licences which refer to this
PART ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.1 The purpose of this Code is to govern the provision
of Live Conversation Message Services (to be referred to in this Code as
'Live Services') within the meaning of the relevant conditions in the licences
granted to Network Operators.
1.2 This Code has been recognised for the purposes of
the relevant conditions in Network Operators' licences on 19th January 1998
by the Director. It supersedes all previous Codes dealing with Controlled
Services and is effective from 9th March 1998. This Code may be amended
by ICSTIS from time to time following consultation with Network Operators
and other interested parties, but unless the Director has given his written
consent to such an amendment, in which case the amended Code shall have
effect from the date of such consent, no amendment to this Code of Practice
shall come into effect for the purposes of any licence condition applicable
to any Network Operator until two months have elapsed from the date on which
ICSTIS has provided the final text of such amendment to the Director.
1.3 The provisions of this Code form part of ICSTIS' own Code of Practice. The Network Operators' standard contracts for the provision of premium rate services oblige Service Providers to comply with the ICSTIS Code of Practice.
1.4 A Service Provider must not provide any Live Service
unless it has first obtained a certificate from ICSTIS giving the Service
Provider permission to provide that service. Service Providers must not
continue operating a Live Service in the event that no certificate is in
Such permission may be subject to any conditions
that ICSTIS may consider appropriate, to ensure that the particular service
does not cause consumer harm. Such conditions may relate, for example (but
not to restrict the generality of the provision), to the content, advertising
or recording of calls. Services provided for entertainment or services charged
at the Higher Rate (see ICSTIS Code paragraph 2.3.1) are likely to be subject
to additional conditions. Further information is provided in Guidelines
annexed to this document which may be revised from time to time.
1.5 In what ICSTIS considers to be appropriate cases
it will not issue a certificate unless it is satisfied that compensation
arrangements exist (as set out in Part Four of this Code) which will enable
the prompt and effective provision of compensation to any subscriber whose
telephone has been the subject of unauthorised use involving calls to the
relevant Live Service(s) and in respect of which the Adjudicator has made
an award under Part Four of this Code.
1.6 Part Two of this Code governs the operating procedures
which must be observed by those Service Providers who are required to have
compensation arrangements in place. Part Three describes the rules relating
to promotional material and advertising. Part Four sets out the procedures
for dealing with claims for compensation, the Compensation Fund Rules and
the duties and powers of the 'Adjudicator' (referred to in paragraph 4.2)
who decides on claims for compensation.
1.7 Breaches of the Code by a Service Provider are drawn
to ICSTIS' attention either by complaints or through monitoring. Once alerted,
ICSTIS implements the procedures set out in Part Five of this Code.
1.8 Where a Service Provider can demonstrate that any
requirement of the Code (except paragraph 1.5) can be adequately satisfied
by alternative means ICSTIS may give prior written permission for the service
to be provided incorporating such alternative means.
1.9 TRANSITIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
If, after the date on which this Code comes into effect, a complaint is
raised against a Service Provider, that complaint shall be considered on
the basis of the substantive provisions of the Code in force at the time
when the circumstances giving rise to the complaint occurred, but shall
be dealt with as to procedure and sanctions in accordance with Part Five
of this Code.
All Live Services in operation on the date on which this Code comes into
effect and which:
are operated by Service Providers which are members in good standing with
the Compensation Fund and have lodged a Compensation Scheme Bond with ICSTIS
in accordance with paragraph 4.1, or
(b)have obtained an Oftel exemption in respect of that service,
are deemed to have been granted permission
by ICSTIS under paragraph 1.4 of this Code, such permission being
subject to conditions requiring, in the case of members of the Compensation
Fund, continued membership of the Fund and the application of paragraphs
2.1.2(a) - (b) and 2.1.3(a) - (e), and in the case of Service
Providers who obtained Oftel's exemption, any conditions imposed by Oftel.
In either case, the remainder of this Code shall apply fully and such deemed
permission may be withdrawn by ICSTIS upon reasonable written notice.
PART TWO: OPERATING PROCEDURES
The purpose of the operating procedures in this Part is to ensure that Service
Providers and their employees ('Operators') act in accordance with the Code
and to facilitate monitoring and effective investigation in the case of
ICSTIS may set down such conditions as it deems appropriate (further information
is provided in Guidelines annexed to this document which may be revised
from time to time) in the granting of a certificate under paragraph 1.4
(which may include conditions relating to operating procedures) and without
prejudice to that general power ICSTIS may require that Service Providers:
ensure that all conversations are listened to continuously by an Operator
(who is the person acting on behalf of the Service Provider to whom a caller
speaks when accessing the Live Service);
ensure that all lines are continuously recorded to allow investigation of
Where recording of conversations has been required, such conditions as ICSTIS
may think appropriate may apply but in particular Service Providers may
to use recording equipment approved by ICSTIS such as to enable the time,
date and content of Live Services to be accurately identified from the recording,
such recordings being at all times compatible with ICSTIS replay facilities.
Service Providers shall also conform with such other reasonable specifications
as required by ICSTIS.
to immediately disconnect the services if recording should cease at any
time for any reason;
to retain such recordings for a period of at least six months and deliver
them to ICSTIS and the Adjudicator, intact, within three working days of
before the commencement of service and in the event of any subsequent change
to the recording equipment and/or the number and use of the lines, to submit
the following to ICSTIS:
a statement from the individual installing the recording equipment which
identifies the type of equipment and the number of lines that have been
connected to that equipment;
a written declaration, in a form prescribed by ICSTIS, providing the following:
the telephone number(s) associated with each line, as referred to in paragraph
2.1.3 d (i);
the recording channel associated with each line, as above;
(3) the type, and nature, of Live Service associated with each line, as above;
a statement from the relevant Network Operator giving all the telephone
numbers, and numbers of lines in respect of each, supplied to the Service
to permit representatives of ICSTIS to visit their premises with or without
notice at any time to investigate whether this Code is being complied with
in all respects and to inspect the recording equipment, and to give such
information and co-operation as ICSTIS may reasonably request which pertains
to compliance with this Code.
2.2 EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING
At the time of entering into employment, every
Operator must be given a copy of this Code. After adequate training (which
should be for a minimum of four hours) and in addition to on-the-job supervision,
the Operator must sign a document to confirm that s/he has read this Code
and has had its contents and significance explained and that s/he will comply
with its provisions. A copy of this signed document must be retained by
the Service Provider and should be produced on request from ICSTIS. No Operator
shall be under the age of 18, and ICSTIS will retain the right to impose
a condition that Operators should be of a higher age.
2.3 INTRODUCTORY MESSAGES
All Service Providers must ensure that on
connection each caller receives a brief introductory message giving details
of all the call costs, the name of the Service Provider providing the Live
Service and a warning that rules apply governing disallowable conversation
content which will be applied by Operators. If applicable, the caller must
also be informed that a recording of the conversation may be required to
be made available to ICSTIS and the Adjudicator.
2.4 CONTENT OF CONVERSATIONS
Service Providers must not provide any false, out-of-date or misleading
information or communicate any information unlawfully.
Service Providers must use all reasonable endeavours not to allow any talk
of a kind or do anything that is likely to:
encourage or incite any person to commit a criminal offence;
cause grave offence by reason of sexual or violent content;
involve the use of foul language;
debase, degrade or demean;
induce or promote racial disharmony;
encourage, incite or suggest to any person the use of harmful substances;
encourage or incite any person to engage in dangerous practices;
induce an unacceptable sense of fear or anxiety;
result in any unreasonable invasion of privacy;
mislead any person with respect to the content or cost of the service being
prolong or delay the service unreasonably.
Service Providers must actively discourage callers from seeking or giving
out surnames, places of work, addresses or telephone numbers, or arranging
or attempting to arrange any meeting while connected to a Live Service.
ICSTIS may give an exemption in respect of this requirement for business
advice or information services where the giving of such information is a
necessary part of the service.
Service Providers must ensure that Operators cut off any caller who does
not comply with the requirements set out in paragraphs 2.4.2
Service Providers must not seek to take improper advantage of any characteristic
or circumstance which may make consumers vulnerable.
2.5 EXPERT OR SPECIALIST SERVICES
Live Services which provide information or advice involving the skill and
judgment of an expert or specialist must indicate clearly at the beginning
of each call the identity, current status and any relevant professional
qualifications and experience of the person(s) or organisation(s) supplying
the specialist information or advice.
If the information or advice is given by a person with no relevant qualifications
or experience, the service should explain its source and the communication
must be prefaced with a statement that the recipient of the communication
should not act upon such advice without first consulting a suitably qualified
practitioner in the particular field of the relevant specialism.
The information or advice should be conveyed in a manner that properly reflects
the seriousness of its subject matter.
UNDER AGE CALLERS
Operators shall do everything practicable in accordance with the procedure
set out in this Code to prevent persons under 18 years of age taking part
in any Live Service.
If an Operator has reasonable grounds to suspect that the caller is under
18 the following procedure must be adopted:
ask the caller his/her age and date of birth; and
ask the caller such other relevant questions as the Operator deems appropriate;
if the caller hesitates in responding or the replies do not correlate or
the Operator is still not satisfied, then the caller should be regarded
as being under 18 and be cut off.
UNAUTHORISED USE OF THE TELEPHONE
2.7.1 The Service Provider shall take all reasonable steps to identify and cut off calls made without the authority of the telephone subscriber and in order to satisfy this obligation shall adopt the following procedure:
Any caller who appears to be using the Live Service excessively, either
due to the length of an individual call made or due to the frequency with
which calls are made, must be warned by the Operator of the potential costs
arising from such usage.
A caller who, having received a warning in accordance with sub-paragraph
(a) above, remains on the line should be asked whether s/he is responsible
for paying the telephone bill or has permission to use the telephone line.
If there is any reason for the Operator to doubt the truth of the response,
then the caller's name, address and telephone number should also be obtained
and checked promptly. The telephone number should then be dialled in a further
attempt to verify the authenticity of the caller. The Operator may take
such further or other steps as seem helpful in establishing the authenticity
of the caller.
If a caller refuses to answer the above questions then s/he should be immediately
Operators should adopt the following procedure if a caller has been connected
to the Live Service for a significant amount of time and has not spoken:
The Operator should prompt the caller to speak.
If there is no response the Operator must inform the caller of the costs
that arise from overuse of the service.
If there is still no response the Operator must inform the caller that unless
the caller offers the form of identity described in paragraph 2.7.1
(b) above, then the caller will be cut off. If no response is forthcoming
the caller must be cut off.
ICSTIS will engage in random monitoring of conversations to check that the
conditions of this Code are being complied with. ICSTIS will, in cases where
conversations are required to be recorded, also call for random samples
of those recordings for the same purpose.
THREE: PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL AND ADVERTISING
Service Providers must also comply with the provisions of the British Codes
of Advertising and Sales Promotion which are supervised by the Advertising
Standards Authority. In addition the following rules shall apply:
The Service Provider shall ensure that the charge for calls to each service
advertised is clearly stated in all promotions. Prices shall be noted in
the form of a price per minute inclusive of VAT, or the total maximum cost
to the consumer of the complete message or service.
Textual pricing information must be legible, prominent, horizontal and presented
in a way that does not require close examination.
For any promotion the identity and address of either the Service Provider
or Information Provider, where not otherwise obvious, must be clearly stated.
This should include at least the Service Provider's name, street name and
number or a PO Box number (PO Box numbers cannot be used in the case of
employment services) and full postcode of the main place of business.
The promotional material must not be misleading in relation to the service
The promotional material must not seek to take improper advantage of any
characteristic or circumstance which may make consumers vulnerable.
The promotional material should not encourage children or young people to
call the service.
No promotion may be directed primarily at persons under 18.
The promotional material must state clearly that conversations are being
constantly recorded where there is such a requirement.
The promotional material in relation to expert or specialist services must
indicate the current status and professional experience of the person(s)
involved in providing the relevant services.
Promotional material on radio, television, cable, telephone or any other
form of transmission will be required to observe these rules to the extent
reasonable and appropriate to the technology employed.
The ICSTIS Compensation Scheme requires Service Providers to contribute
to the Live Conversation Service Providers Compensation Fund ('the Compensation
Fund') and to enter into a contract with the Trustees of the Compensation
Fund in a form agreed by ICSTIS and to lodge a Bond with ICSTIS as security
against meeting compensation claims (a 'Compensation Scheme Bond').
The Compensation Scheme Bond is a document under seal whereby a third party
guarantees the fulfilment by the Service Provider of their obligation to
pay any sum awarded by the Adjudicator to the claimant. Such Bond must be
provided by a body acceptable to ICSTIS in such form and in such amount
as ICSTIS shall require and shall be expressed to remain in force for one
year from the date on which the Service Provider shall cease to provide
Live Services in respect of which such Bond was required.
A claim for financial compensation must be in the form of a pro forma written
claim available on request from ICSTIS. When claims are received by ICSTIS
the relevant Service Provider will be given an opportunity to settle them
to the satisfaction of the claimant.
If the Service Provider does not settle the claim to the satisfaction of
the claimant within such time as the Adjudicator considers reasonable, the
ICSTIS Secretariat will investigate the claim and prepare a report on each
case which will be passed to the Adjudicator for adjudication. The ICSTIS
Secretariat will provide the Adjudicator with such assistance as s/he may
Where in a claim made by an individual subscriber (but not in respect of
a claim made by a subscriber which is a limited company or a business subscriber)
the Adjudicator has been unable to identify any firm evidence to support
either acceptance or rejection of a claim, s/he shall normally give the
benefit of the doubt to the claimant. However, the Adjudicator may decide
against a claimant if s/he believes that a decision in favour of the claimant
would represent an injustice.
The Adjudicator must be a person appointed by ICSTIS, but must not have
any interest in any Service Provider of a Live Service.
The Compensation Fund is under the control of trustees who are authorised
to make payments to claimants when so directed by the Adjudicator. The Trustees
must be separate and independent of ICSTIS and the Adjudicator, but ICSTIS
must be consulted before a new trustee is appointed and may veto the appointment.
ICSTIS will provide such guidance and help to claimants as they may require
(having particular regard to any special difficulties or needs of disabled
persons). Claims will receive immediate attention by the ICSTIS Secretariat
and will be passed on to the Adjudicator as soon as practicable in the event
that the Service Provider does not settle the claim to the satisfaction
of the claimant.
In reaching decisions the Adjudicator must apply the following principles
Proceedings will always be conducted on the basis of a written claim and
any written response made by the Service Provider, but in appropriate cases
the Adjudicator may wish to meet the claimant and/or the Service Provider
and ask for oral representations to be made. Failure of the claimant to
agree to a meeting will not however of itself prejudice his/her claim.
The Adjudicator may take whatever steps (either personally or through ICSTIS)
the Adjudicator considers helpful to the adjudication including (but without
limiting the Adjudicator's powers) consultation with any relevant person
Claims must be dealt with as promptly and regularly by the Adjudicator as
the number of claims reasonably permits.
Subject to paragraph 4.5 the Adjudicator shall adjudicate
entirely as s/he sees fit on the basis of all the material before him/her
and (entirely without prejudice to the foregoing) the Adjudicator may disallow
any claim made by a subscriber who the Adjudicator in his/her sole discretion
considers to have a significant level of business or commercial expertise
The Adjudicator shall formulate a set of guidelines, a copy of which will
be available on request from ICSTIS, which s/he may have regard to in making
Where the Adjudicator concludes that the claim should be met s/he shall
pass his/her conclusion and direction to ICSTIS. S/he shall also stipulate
the appropriate level of compensation (if any) to be paid. Such award of
compensation may at the Adjudicator's sole discretion include legal and
other costs and expenses of the claimant and may include an award under
ICSTIS has no power to alter any such decision of the Adjudicator.
In any case, the Adjudicator may direct ICSTIS to inform the claimant of
the availability of suitable call-barring equipment or facilities and of
the availability of itemised billing and may make an award relating to the
cost of such equipment or facilities. The Adjudicator may give such further
or other advice as s/he sees fit.
If an award is made:
The Adjudicator shall so inform ICSTIS who shall inform the relevant Service
Provider of the award and any applicable administrative charge. The Service
Provider shall promptly make payment to ICSTIS of the sum awarded to the
claimant and any administrative charge. If the Service Provider fails to
pay promptly such failure will amount to a breach of this Code and ICSTIS
will enforce the Compensation Scheme Bond lodged by the Service Provider
and pay to the claimant the sum awarded and to itself any administrative
charge from the proceeds of the Bond. After deducting all reasonable costs
and expenses arising from and in relation to such enforcement ICSTIS shall
retain any balance remaining for such period (being not less than one year)
as shall appear to it in its absolute discretion to be necessary to cover
any possible further awards and administrative charges in respect of services
operated by that Service Provider.
If it is necessary for ICSTIS to take steps to enforce a Bond the Service
Provider concerned must forthwith cease to provide any Live Services.
In the event that the total of the award made by the Adjudicator and/or
such further awards or administrative charges raised against a Service Provider
cannot be met from the proceeds of the Compensation Scheme Bond provided
by that Service Provider then ICSTIS shall direct the trustees of the Compensation
Fund to pay any such outstanding award or balance of award. Once directed
to effect a payment, the Trustees will pay it out by virtue of the provisions
of the Trust Deed.
In the event that the Adjudicator decides that no award should be made or
that the award made should be no greater than a sum previously offered (unconditionally
save as to time for acceptance) by the Service Provider to the Claimant
prior to investigation by ICSTIS and which was not accepted by the claimant
then any administrative charge made by ICSTIS in respect of such case shall
be paid by the Trustees by virtue of the provisions of the Trust Deed.
Service Providers, ICSTIS, and the Adjudicator shall provide the Director
with such information as s/he may reasonably require regarding the operation
of the Compensation Scheme.
The Adjudicator shall prepare an annual report which shall be presented
to ICSTIS for inclusion in ICSTIS' published annual report.
FIVE: PROCEDURES AND SANCTIONS
Normally when the ICSTIS staff (called 'the Secretariat') receives or initiates
a complaint that there has been a breach of this Code, the 'Standard Procedure'
will be invoked:
The Service Provider will be given all necessary information about the complaint
including details of the service or promotional material which gives rise
to the apparent breach of the Code, and will refer the Service Provider
to the relevant provisions in the Code.
The Service Provider will then be given a reasonable time in which to respond
and to provide any information requested. In the absence of any special
circumstances, this response will be required within five full working days.
In special circumstances, a shorter time limit may be set - but this will
be no less than 24 hours.
If the Service Provider fails to respond within the required period then
ICSTIS will proceed on the assumption that the Service Provider does not
wish to respond.
The Secretariat will prepare a report together with relevant supporting
evidence which will be placed before the Committee for adjudication.
Where it appears to the Secretariat that a breach of the Code has taken
place which is serious and requires urgent remedy the 'Emergency Procedure'
will be invoked:
The Secretariat will undertake an immediate investigation of the complaint.
On completion, the Secretariat will notify its findings to three members
of the Committee.
If all three members agree that there appears to be a serious breach of
the Code requiring urgent remedy, the Secretariat will then telephone the
Service Provider and advise him that his service appears to be in breach
of the Code, that the Emergency Procedure has been invoked and that unless
the service is removed immediately, the network operator will be advised
of the breach and requested to bar access to the relevant number(s) forthwith.
If the Secretariat is unable to contact the Service Provider, ICSTIS will
advise the network operator of the apparent breach of the Code and recommend
that access to the relevant number(s) should be barred forthwith. The Network
Operator will also be advised that in the event that access is not barred,
a recommendation will be made to the Director for him to direct the Network
Operator to bar access.
Once the service has been removed or access barred, the Service Provider
will be provided with all necessary information relating to the complaint
and will be referred to the relevant provisions of the Code. The Service
Provider will then be required to respond in writing within three working
All relevant information will be laid before the Committee within 14 days
from the date of the initial reference.
The time limits set out in this section may be extended at the Committee's
discretion if the Committee considers that their strict application might
5.3 DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION
5.3.1 During complaint investigations the
Secretariat may request the Service Provider to disclose to ICSTIS, in confidence
and within a reasonable time period, any additional relevant information
or documents required for the completion of the investigation. This may
include information about call volumes, patterns and revenues, details of
the numbers allocated to an information provider, details of services operating
on particular premium rate numbers or recordings of services.
5.4 ORAL HEARINGS
5.4.1 ICSTIS may, at its discretion, hear
5.5.1 On the basis of the evidence presented,
the Committee will decide whether there has been a breach of the Code. Each
case will be considered and decided on its own merits.
5.6.1 ICSTIS may, at its discretion, review
adjudications in the light of new information.
5.6.2 ICSTIS may, at its discretion, review
any sanction imposed following an adjudication. Following a request from
the Service Provider, either the Chairman or three members of the Committee
may decide to suspend the sanction imposed, pending a review by the Committee.
5.7.1 Once ICSTIS has adjudicated on the complaint
in question, the Secretariat will put before the Committee the Service Provider's
details - these will include a list of relevant breaches upheld and sanctions
imposed and the numbers of lines and numbers allocated to the Service Provider.
5.7.2 ICSTIS has a range of sanctions which
it will apply according to the degree of seriousness with which it regards
the breach. Having taken all relevant circumstances into account ICSTIS
(a) require the Service Provider to remedy
the breach; and/or
(b) require an assurance from the Service
Provider, or any associated individual, relating to future behaviour in
terms determined by ICSTIS; and/or
(c) require the Service Provider to submit
certain or all categories of services and/or promotional material to ICSTIS
for prior approval for a defined period; and/or
(d) recommend to the relevant Network Operator
that access to some or all of the numbers allocated to the Service Provider
should be barred for a defined period; and/or
(e) recommend to the relevant Network Operator
that the Service Provider should be prohibited from providing a particular
type or category of service for a defined period; and/or
(f) impose an appropriate fine on the Service
Provider to be collected by ICSTIS. Non-payment of a fine will be considered
to be a breach of the Code and may result in further sanctions being imposed,
in addition to a recommendation to the relevant Network Operator to withhold
and pass over to ICSTIS the sum(s) due from the Service Provider's outstanding
(g) recommend to the relevant Network Operator
that the service provider should no longer be permitted to provide any premium
rate service for a defined period; and/or
(h) in the most serious cases recommend to
the Director that he should make an appropriate direction to the Network
Operator (or to the Network Operators) to cease to provide (or as the case
may be, not to provide) the Service Provider with any service enabling it
to provide Live Services.
5.8.1 All Service Providers found to be in breach of the Code may be invoiced for the administrative and legal costs of the work undertaken by ICSTIS. Non-payment will also be considered to be a breach of the Code and may result in further sanctions being imposed, in addition to a recommendation to the relevant Network Operator to withhold and pass over to ICSTIS the sum(s) due from the Service Provider's outstanding payments.