Text and ringtone scammers to be fined up to €250,000

30 Jun 2009

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD, has sent a resoundingly clear message to fraudsters who scam mobile phone owners using premium rate content including ringtones, horoscopes and sports results.

Minister Ryan has presented a Bill to Government that will see individuals or companies found guilty of such activities hit with fines of up to €250,000, as well as having their licences revoked.

The Bill is expected to be published in the coming days.

In a move that the Minister describes as providing “peace of mind for parents and protection for consumers”, the Bill puts in place a strong regime for consumer protection, for subscribers to premium rate services.

It replaces the existing industry model of self-regulation overseen by RegTel and transfers the regulatory functions to the statutory communications regulator – the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).

For the first time, premium-rate service providers will require a licence to operate and will be required to abide by conditions of that service. Providers will be expected to comply with a new Code of Practice as a condition to obtain a licence.

Failure to comply will result in amendment, suspension or revocation of the licence by ComReg.

Companies or individuals found operating without a licence will be punished with potential fines of up to €250,000.

A separate offence will be created for overcharging for a premium rate service.

“These services have been the subject of thousands of complaints, to RegTel and to my office,” Minister Ryan said.

“This Bill aims to protect the consumer, particularly children and the elderly, who can be subject to misleading information and exploitation.

“I know that the industry itself was conscious of the damage being caused by rogue operators in the wider market.

“This is a major step forward for consumer protection and for regulation of the industry, and I am confident it will improve the Irish consumer’s experience of telecommunications in general,” Minister Ryan added.

By John Kennedy