back to article Crackdown looming on premium-rate phone number internet ads

Time may be short for companies who make a living with internet-promoted premium phone numbers, as the UK regulator of such matters opens a second consultation aimed at denying them obscurity. Adverts will be required to state clearly that they aren't linked to the service they're promoting, and will be required to use the …


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  1. jake Silver badge

    Major logical error ...

    "If the users are lazy then that's fine: they are paying to avoid bothering to find the real number, but if they're unwary then that's fraud and shouldn't be allowed. The difficulty is distinguishing between the two."

    There is absolutely zero difference between the two. Being lazy & clicking on a link "because it is there & TehIntraWebTubes said so!" is unwary, by definition.

    Exploiting credulity is pure fraud, always has been, always will be.

  2. Gordon Pryra

    Whats more depressing

    Is that these people play into the general lack of "giving a shit" by the various authority's in the UK. The not my problem and not my cash "culture" is in every department in every local council, NHS office or other administrative center.

    Having seen stories of govt departments actually paying for add-words to get their sites to the top in order to beat these people is pathetic.

    Having to legislate in order to get the fraud outlined in this article stopped also pathetic.

    Having a minister phone up Google and tell them to stop is what should have happened. (its aimed at Google obviously)

    Why legislate for this and not got Googe's tax evasion?

  3. Tony Paulazzo

    08.. numbers

    Amazing how these groups of numbers haven't come under investigation. They basically appeared as mobile phones became ubiquitous, and while some are only local rate calls anywhere in the UK, they don't come under mobile contractual 'free minutes' (which includes the landline free 0800 but mobile still charges), and other 08 numbers can basically charge the caller what they like (with no warning), which BT and the contracter share.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 08.. numbers

      FFS go and do a little research before touting off this FUD.

      "They basically appeared as mobile phones became ubiquitous,."

      Utter bollocks, it's like saying the price of food has increased as more mobiles have appeared, they are not related in anyway. many actually cost the company money!.

      The reason for the uptake is peoples demand for always on 24/7/365 services. Take a (basic call flow for us)

      Dial a local number, ah it busy, try a different number as they may have a line issue (repeat 2 more times). hold on, it's a Sunday, different number, dial again....oh hold on it's a Sunday night not day, dial a different batch of numbers.

      " they don't come under mobile contractual 'free minutes' (which includes the landline free 0800 but mobile still charges".

      That's got fuck all to do with the owner of the 08 number, revenue / cost is in no way based on what device calls them, that's between the mobile Carrier and the Non-Geo operator, take it up with your mobile operator.

      Now as SIP trunking is getting more widespread, there will be less need for Non-Geos as you can have Geo numbers in geo-separate locations, and for those who don't use this, there are 0345's. But do you know how hard it is to get people to change habits? We still have people dialing numbers we ceased 5 years ago!

      If you are happy, I can give you 100% uptime with a non-geo (unless the provider fucks up) of maybe 99% uptime and you dialing up to 10 different numbers with a (Non-SIP) geo.

    2. mhoulden

      Re: 08.. numbers

      Actually there is a consultation on non-geographic numbers going on at the moment, over at, which among other things expects 080x numbers to be free from all lines, and other 08x numbers to have much clearer charging information. I'm surprised El Reg didn't pick this up as a news story.

  4. Khaptain Silver badge

    Search Engine Listing

    These damned websites should also be forced lower down the web listing. It is becoming a PITA to get to the free pages, at least here in France it is. For example , you often have to click to the second page of results in Google in order to find the telephone number for your Doctors Cabinet for free....... ( replace Doctor with plumber, Electrician or any other common but vital service).

    Google can be a bastard for this kind of thing.

  5. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Gordon Pryra

      Re: just ban premium rate

      Indeed, they are almost 100% a scammers charter.

      Many company's use them to fleece their customers. Be it a call center (Telephone Banking from HSBC is 08457) or a "Ring Back" scam from Halifax (you get a missed call, return the call to find its an 08457 number as well).

      Actually this is just the banks, and they have proved their utter disdane for the public many times, but still, the "ring tones" aimed at teenagers and the new raft of "buy a cute set of bunnies ears for your online character on our "free web game" aimed at 8-10 year olds.

      What have they all got in common?

      They all make money by fooling people into making the call, be it kids who know know what they are doing with their parents picking up the tab or bogus miscalls by the banks (Halifx you are a bunch of bankers) or not disclosing that in order to talk to a company post sales you need to pay them for the pleasure of reporting your goods/services are not working.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: just ban premium rate

        Be it a call center (Telephone Banking from HSBC is 08457) or a "Ring Back" scam from Halifax (you get a missed call, return the call to find its an 08457 number as well).

        Sigh....despite this not being the way for years and years, idiots still can't grasp this simple concept.

        08's are not premium. if you are charged at a high rate that is your provider fucking you over.

        09's are:

        and worse 070's can be (worst idea ever)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          Re: just ban premium rate

          "and worse 070's can be (worst idea ever)"

          Actually, I wouldn't entirely agree with that.

          I have a 070 'throwaway' number after getting fed up with dealing with organisations requiring a contact number, and then spamming me with cold sales calls and texts despite requesting no marketing.

          I give them the 070 number (which does not receive SMS) and if they choose to cold-call me, they'll pay a premium rate for the privilege. I can then throwaway the 070 number and get a new one to use the next time.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: just ban premium rate

          "and worse 070's can be (worst idea ever)"

          Perhaps but I've taken advantage of the situation to get one and give it to any company wanting my phone number without a good reason. If they want to pay £1.50 to call me, so be it.

          (no, I don't get any termination revenue. It's mainly a way to discourage unwanted marketing calls and 09 numbers are costly to maintain)

    2. Harry

      Re: just ban premium rate

      There are some circumstances where premium rate services provide reasonable value for money. But there are certainly some services which should be banned altogether.

      * Hijacking by third parties. The "services" which Ofcom is complaining about here seem to be either an unrelated organisation using a service already being provided free or at the normal rate and front-ending the service with a premium rate number, or using the NAME of an existing service to hijack calls to a premium rate number of a different business that may or may not provide an equivalent service.

      Saying the number is premium rate is NOT the proper answer to hijacking. The PROPER answer is to ban premium rate numbers from being used for hijack purposes.

      * Customer contact numbers. Yes, its OK for companies to provide an "extra" service on a premium rate number, such as helping people use equipment they have bought. But, such companies should be absolutely required to have and to publish a freephone number for dealing with complaints and product defects, both of which should be prohibited on premium numbers.

      Ofcom also needs to understand that to all intents and purposes, any number which costs users more to call than normal numbers (eg by being excluded from their call allowance) is DE-FACTO a premium rate number and again, companies which have them should be specifically required to publish a "normal rate" number for complaints, product defects and all other services which do not provide quantifiable additional value to the caller.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: just ban premium rate

        "Saying the number is premium rate is NOT the proper answer to hijacking. The PROPER answer is to ban premium rate numbers from being used for hijack purposes."

        There's already a tort on the books for this in civil courts - "Passing off". Among other things, victims using this line to go after the impersonators could fairly easily (IMO) get an order forcing the scammers to hand over their entire gross income for the number in question.

        More importantly, given the tort exists, why is PPP having to do all this when the OFT should be going after the scammers with criminal charges?

  6. Jedit
    Thumb Up

    This is good news

    Now all we need is to institute the death penalty [1] for the scum who cold call from "the technical support service of Windows", and we'll be set.

    [1] Some negotiation may be required here.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: This is good news

      Great fun to string these guys along.

      A good one is to try to follow their instructions on a Linux box and see how long it takes them to guess you are pissing with them.

      "Click the Start button"

      "What's that"?

      "The button in the bottom left-hand corner with Start on it"

      "I don't have one of those"

      "Are you running Windows 8"

      "Well, there are a lot of windows all over the screen".




      1. Fihart

        Re: This is good news

        Slightly off topic, but do all respond to nuisance commercial callers by pressing 5 (or whatever they ask) "to speak to one of our agents". Then walk away and have a cup of tea. Eventually your phone will emit a piercing tone to tell you that the other end has hung up. Wastes their time, costs them money. You may then receive fewer calls of that type.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: This is good news

        I regard it as a sport. How long can you keep them going. I reckon the longer they try to unsuccessfully scam me the less time they have to try and scam others...

        I realise these guys need to earn a living also, but they know what they're doing..

        My Suse laptop does have a button in teh left hand corner :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is good news

          Compare your hourly rate with that of a call centre guy in India (average per capita annual income in India is under USD1000).

          If you spend 30 minutes winding him up what's it cost each of you?

          Their loss is a cost worth paying for the times when they succeed. A successful "Microsoft helping you with a virus on your PC" scam gets them: USD200 for the fix; full access to your PC for their technician to fix the problem (or load a trojan and access your personal data); your credit card details to sell on or use to buy iPads for all their family and friends.

  7. Wize

    Can we get the people who run the 0800/0845/0870/etc numbers to give a geographic number?

    Since, these days, most of us have a mobile phone and not many use land lines, it can be annoying to use these numbers as they do not get included as your phone's minutes.

    I was annoyed, sitting on hold with BT on my mobile, trying to get them to fix the phone line to my house.

    1. Tony Paulazzo

      Can we get the people who run the 0800/0845/0870/etc numbers to give a geographic number?

      will often get you a non 08 whatever number.

      1. Wize


        I know about that site.

        But not all companies have entries in there. Some change their number when it hits that list. And some have been known to filter out UK source calls to force them down the 0870 route.

        That is why I am suggesting they be made to give out the alternatives themselves.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Search for "Say no to 0870"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is zero justification for premium rate lines

    As has already been said ban them all and extend the telephone preference service to "international" numbers too.

    All these scams work because your service provider gets a cut of the money they scam, in the US they would be classed as aiding and abetting but in the UK they are seen as being impartial and take their cut without fear of reprecussions.

    All the international autodialers should be banned on the first complaint but again BT or whomever are also in on the theft of your time and privacy, so do nothing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not use "passing off" against them

    Surely if I gave an incorrect impression on my website that my corner shop was part of Tesco, I'd get some aggressive communications from their lawyers - so how come I can pass myself off as "NHS Direct" screw people and government doesn't give a damn?

    I needed to renew my EHIC E111 card. Googled for it. There were 3 Adwords ads each gives the strong impression they're "official" - and well, see for yourself, might as well click on all 3 and contribute to Google's coffers.

    Cost about £20 for "help" with what must be one of the simplest government application forms, all you need is name, address, DOB, phone and NI number.

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