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 Code.
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 20th January 1997 by the Director. It supersedes all previous Codes dealing with Controlled Services. 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 service in the event that no certificate is in force.
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 restrictions on the content, advertising or recording of calls. Services provided for entertainment or services charged at the Higher Rate (see ICSTIS Code paragraph 1.6) 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 the Service Provider has made an initial contribution to the Live Conversation Services Compensation Fund ("the Compensation Fund") and would be capable in all other respects of complying with the terms of this Code. Every such Service Provider must enter into a standard contract with the Trustees of the Compensation Fund to which it makes its contribution and such a contract obliges the Service Provider to make such further payments as may be required. If such a contribution is made and such a contract is entered into then (subject to 1.4 above) this will entitle the Service Provider to provide the Live Services. The Compensation Fund is held by Trustees in accordance with a Trust Deed, and copies of the standard contracts and Trust Deeds are available on request from ICSTIS. Failure on the part of a Service Provider to make any required contributions to the Compensation Fund will result in the immediate revocation of the Service Provider's certificate.
1.6 Part Two (paragraph 2.1) 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 with the duties and powers of the "Adjudicator" (referred to in paragraph 4.3 below) 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 1.5 above) can be adequately satisfied by alternative means, ICSTIS may give written prior permission for the service to be provided incorporating such alternative means.
1.9.1 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.
1.9.2 All Live Services in operation on the date on which this Code comes into effect and which are operated by service providers which:
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) - (c) below, 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.
2.1.1 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 complaint.
2.1.2 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 above (which may include conditions relating to operating procedures) and without prejudice to that general power ICSTIS may require that Service Providers:
2.1.3 Where recording of conversations has been required, such conditions as ICSTIS may think appropriate may apply but in particular Service Providers may be required:
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 4 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.
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 Services 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.
2.4.1 Service Providers must not provide any false, out-of-date or misleading information or communicate any information unlawfully.
2.4.2 Service Providers must use all reasonable endeavours not to allow any talk of a kind or do anything that is likely to:
2.4.3 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.
2.4.4 Service Providers must ensure that Operators cut off any caller who does not comply with the requirements set out in clauses 2.4.2 or 2.4.3 above.
2.5.1 Live Services which provide information or advice involving the skill and judgement 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.
2.5.2 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.
2.5.3 The information or advice should be conveyed in a manner that properly reflects the seriousness of its subject matter.
2.6.1 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 Conversation Service.
2.6.2 If an Operator has reasonable grounds to suspect that the caller is under 18 the following procedure must be adopted:
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:
2.7.2 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:
2.8 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.
3.1 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:
3.2 Promotional material on radio, television, cable, telephone or any other forms of transmission will be required to observe these rules to the extent reasonable and appropriate to the technology employed .
4.1 The Live Conversation Service Compensation Fund ("the Compensation Fund") is in operation to; compensate customers (telephone subscribers), to meet the costs of ICSTIS in preparing, revising, applying and administering this Code and to finance the fitting of call-barring equipment on the customer's premises (or the obtaining of call-barring at the Network Operator's exchange as appropriate) in circumstances where there has been unauthorised use of that person's telephone for the purpose of gaining access to Live Services.
4.2 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.
4.3 If the Service Provider does not settle the claim to the satisfaction of the claimant within a reasonable time, 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 require.
4.4 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.
4.5 The Adjudicator must be a person appointed by ICSTIS, but must not have any interest in any Service Provider of a Live Service.
4.6 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.
4.7 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.
4.8 In reaching decisions the Adjudicator must apply the following principles and procedures:-
4.8.1 Proceedings will always be conducted on the basis of a written claim, but in appropriate cases the Adjudicator may wish to meet the claimant and/or the Service Provider and also 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.
4.8.2 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 or body.
4.8.3 Claims must be dealt with as promptly and regularly by the Adjudicator as the number of claims reasonably permits.
4.8.4 Subject to paragraph 4.4 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 or resources.
4.8.5 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 his/her decisions.
4.8.6 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 paragraph 4.8.8 below.
4.8.7 ICSTIS has no power to alter any such decision of the Adjudicator.
4.8.8 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.
4.9 If an award is made, ICSTIS shall send directions to the trustees of the Compensation Fund requiring payment as the Adjudicator shall have directed. Once directed to effect a payment, the trustees will pay it out by virtue of the provisions of the relevant Trust Deed under which the trustees are appointed subject always to the prior acceptance of the award by the claimant.
4.10 Service Providers, ICSTIS, and the Adjudicator shall provide the Director with such information as he may reasonably require regarding the operation of the Compensation Scheme, except to the extent that compliance with any such request would result in a breach of the claimant's confidentiality.
4.11 The Adjudicator shall prepare an annual report which shall be presented to ICSTIS for inclusion in ICSTIS' published annual report.
5.1.1 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:
5.2.1 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.
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.
5.4.1 ICSTIS may, at its discretion, hear oral representations.
5.5.1 On the basis of the evidence presented, ICSTIS 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 Committee members of ICSTIS may decide to suspend the sanction imposed, pending a review by ICSTIS.
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 may:
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.