East Belfast Alliance Assembly Member, Naomi Long, has revealed that, following an investigation of complaints she received last Autumn about a premium rate phone service, the operator in question has now been fined £10,000 and banned from operating such a service for 1 year.
Her complaint to ICSTIS, the telephone information services watchdog, followed a spate of unsolicited, automated calls received by constituents in October / November of last year, in which they were told that they had won a prize in a draw and should ring a premium rate phone line to claim, despite having never entered any draw.
Naomi Long said, “People were rightly sceptical of the messages they were receiving, about winning thousands of pounds worth of luxury prizes in a draw they had never entered, and they asked if I could look into this on their behalf. Apart from the nuisance factor, I was worried that people may
end up unwittingly running up huge bills, by returning the calls.
“I am delighted that after a long and complex investigation carried out by ICSTIS, which traced the company in question to Mauritius, I have just been informed that this operation has been shut down. The operator has been barred from operating for a year and the company fined £10,000.
“Unsolicited, automated calls are an offence under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive Regulations, and this particular operation also failed to abide by the ICSTIS Code of Practice for premium rate services.
“I would urge anyone who receives unsolicited automated messages urging them to call back to premium rate numbers, recognisable by the 090 code, not to return the call but to take a note of the details and the number and report it.
“The phone calls may promise a prize, but it is the regulator who has really delivered for consumers on this occasion.”