PhonepayPlus is the UK’s independent regulator of premium rate services.

Premium rate services (PRS)* are the goods and services that you can buy by charging the cost to your phone bill or pre-pay account. They include directory enquiries, voting on TV talent shows, donating to charity by text or downloading apps on your mobile phone.

PhonepayPlus regulation is open, fair and robust, underpinned by a Code of Practice (the Code) approved by Ofcom. As the telecoms, internet and payments sectors continue to grow globally at an unprecedented rate, PhonepayPlus takes action to safeguard consumers and help cutting-edge providers of digital content and services to thrive.

PhonepayPlus launched the 13th Code of Practice on 1 July 2015, which was approved by Ofcom. Download the Code here.

*PRS is a generic name for goods and services that you purchase and are charged to your telephone bill or pay-as-you-go credit. Here are some examples of premium rate services:

Quizzes and competitions

Adverts for quizzes and competitions can be found everywhere (such as on Facebook, websites and print media). Premium rate competitions charge you for entry and may involve ongoing charges if you subscribe. You should ensure that you understand the pricing by reading the terms and conditions before entering. All subscription services require an interaction from the consumer in order to join, whether by sending a text, by entering a PIN received on the mobile phone into the completion website or by touching a button.

Voting (e.g. X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly Come Dancing)

Premium rate is often used as a way to vote on interactive television shows and websites. This could involve a call to a telephone number beginning with 09 or via a call or text to a short code from a mobile phone. Each of these interactions will result in a separate one-off charge to your bill.

Charity donations (one-off donations or subscriptions)

Making a charity donation by text is a quick, simple method of making a one-off or ongoing contribution to a charity of your choice. These services will typically use five digit short codes prefixed 70xxx – You should ensure that you are happy with the amount you are donating before proceeding. You can terminate a donation subscription in the normal way by texting STOP ALL back to the short code you are receiving the charges from. Alternatively if you want to skip a month’s donation you can do this by texting SKIP back to the short code.

Digital content (e.g. apps, in-app purchases, digital media, one-off purchases or subscriptions)

Digital content is anything that you can purchase that is not a solid item such as music tracks, videos, wallpapers or games. Purchases can be made on a per use basis or via subscriptions that are charged periodically. Often free games downloaded to your mobile device will allow you to purchase additional content (such as coins or extra lives) which can be charged to your telephone bill instead of a credit or debit card.

Directory enquiries (e.g. 118 numbers)

Directory Enquiry Services are typically provided by calling a six digit number which starts with 118xxx. These services can be expensive, therefore you should check the pricing on the promotion for the service before calling. Directory Enquiry Services are not required to provide pricing on connection, however must warn you of the ongoing cost if you wish to connect directly to the telephone number you have requested. It is often better to make a note of the number you have requested and call it separately.

Adult services (e.g. chat, dating)

These are services intended for use by those over the age of 18 and can occur via telephone calls to premium rate numbers starting 09 or by text short codes.

Gambling

Premium rate numbers can be used for Gambling Services, most typically using text short codes or Payforit charging to your bill. Gambling services are subject to strict rules and limitations. Most gambling services will require you to set up an account and provide your personal details in order to use the service. Occasionally these charges will be presented as an ‘in-app purchase’, for example within an application for a Fruit/Slot machine. Remember that you are playing with real money.

SMS shortcodes

SMS shortcodes are five or six-digits long and usually begin with 6, 7 or 8. These numbers are often used to pay for new features in apps, to donate to charity, to enter competitions and to download games and ringtones.

Charge to Mobile

Also known as Operator billing, Direct-to-Bill or Direct Carrier Billing (in the US), it enables consumers to pay for goods and services from app stores, third party publishers and merchants via their phone bill.

Fixed line premium rate numbers

Fixed line premium rate numbers comprise 118, 0870, 0871, 0872, 0873, 070 and 09 numbers.

If PhonepayPlus investigates your service

PhonepayPlus examines issues where PRS may be operating non-compliantly with the Code. Depending on the circumstances, this might involve giving advice to a provider on how to bring its service in line with the Code or, in more serious cases, opening an investigation.

If the case under investigation is refer to a tribunal and it is decided a provider has breached the Code, the tribunal can impose one or more of the following sanctions:

  • issue a reprimand and/or warning;
  • order a provider to give refunds to consumers;
  • impose a fine – up to a maximum of £250,000 per breach of the Code;
  • bar access to the service;
  • require a provider to remedy the breach of the Code;
  • require a provider to obtain compliance advice or permission to run a service;
  • require a provider to submit to an audit of the service; and/or
  • ban a provider or individuals associated with the provider from running some or all premium rate services.

PhonepayPlus will impose administrative charges towards the costs incurred in bringing cases to a conclusion

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