Ofcom gets tough on rogue diallers

Communications regulator plans a new crackdown on Internet diallers, over a year after consumers started being defrauded in droves

Ofcom wants to tighten up regulations on Internet diallers because companies are already finding a way round the rules.

Rogue diallers switch dial-up Internet connections from low-cost or freephone numbers to more expensive numbers. The software is usually installed on the computer without the customer's knowledge by them opening a spam email or visiting a Web site where the software is hidden.

The communications regulator said there is "growing evidence of consumer harm" arising from rogue diallers — victims can see their bills go up by as much as £1,420, although the average hit is around £160.

Last year premium rate regulator ICSTIS ordered that no network should provide premium rate numbers for diallers unless the company requesting the number has a permission certificate from ICSTIS. But this only applied to numbers starting '09' and now rogues are migrating to '08' numbers to avoid this.

Ofcom now wants to extend the rules so that ICSTIS can take action against any rogue dialler irrespective of the telephone number used or the call charges involved.

An Ofcom spokesman told ZDNet UK's sister site, silicon.com: "This means that a dialler has to get permission to operate from ICSTIS, and ICSTIS has power to fine companies that are found to be rogue. If companies have to get prior consent that's a strong deterrent."