Phone service complaints increase

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The Independent Online
Complaints about premium-rate telephone services rose 10 per cent last year, mainly because of the rapid growth in international sex lines.

There was a 20-fold increase in the number of international lines investigated, according to the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services. The watchdog stepped up its monitoring to address poor compliance levels.

In all, fines imposed during the year exceeded pounds 90,000. Misleading advertising and service content were still the most common causes for public complaint, accounting for more than a quarter of complaints.

Instances of unreasonable delay, although decreasing, were also a common cause for complaint. In one case, a live tarot line company was permanently barred from operating premium-rate services when it was discovered that callers were being deliberately kept on hold for up to half an hour at a time.

"Premium rate services are hugely popular with the public . Most of the 4 million or so calls made to them each week don't cause problems," said Baroness Dean, chairman of ICSTIS. "However, some companies continue to flout the rules and so we must remain vigilant to make sure consumers are properly protected."