Oftel has introduced new measures to protect mobile phone users from rip-off premium text messages.
The telco watchdog is setting its sights on companies that send text messages at random to people who then are charged premium rates for services they have unwittingly signed up for after replying to the message.
Under the new powers, Oftel can order the disconnection of the service when the operator ignores a request from the premium rate service watchdog, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS) to terminate it.
The powers apply to premium rate services promoted on 090 phone numbers from fixed and mobile phones, as well as premium text messages.
Recent examples of abuse have included service providers sending unsolicited text messages inviting a response costing £1.50, and competition lines that informed the caller they had won a prize, which the consumer then never received.
"These new, tough powers will enable Oftel to support the work of ICSTIS to stamp out these blatant abuses quickly and protect consumers," said Oftel director general, David Edmonds.
"Strengthening the regime will also protect the reputation of legitimate premium rate service providers," he said.
ICSTIS chairman Sir Peter North said the new moves were "important as the number of networks continues to increase and the range of services that are delivered continues to expand."
He added that the licence amendment "enables us to call on Oftel for support in eradicating serious consumer harm when all of ICSTIS' measures have been exhausted."
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