UK mobile industry guidelines - for setting up and running services compliantly
When operating a premium SMS or Payforit service in the UK you need to check the following details:
- Have you familiarised yourself with the PhonepayPlus Code of practice?
- Have you registered your company with PhonepayPlus?
- If running a premium SMS service have you got the right short code?
- Have you checked to see if you need prior permission to operate the service?
- Is your service required by the Networks to run on Payforit?
PhonepayPlus is the UK mobile premium rate service regulator. It compiles and enforces the UK premium Code of Practice (UK Code) http://www.code.phonepayplus.org.uk/ and has the authority to apply sanctions for breaches, including fines.
The UK Code requires that providers operate their services with the following outcomes in mind.
“That premium rate services comply with the law.”
“That consumers of premium rate services are fully and clearly informed of all information likely to influence the decision to purchase, including the cost, before any purchase is made.”
“That consumers of premium rate services are treated fairly and equitably.”
“That premium rate services do not cause the unreasonable invasion of consumers’ privacy.”
“That premium rate services do not cause harm or unreasonable offence to consumers or to the general public.”
“That consumers are able to have complaints resolved quickly and easily by the Level 2 provider responsible for the service and that any redress is provided quickly and easily.”
Guidance is provided on the PhonepayPlus website to help providers achieve these objectives, this PPP guidance is not binding but should be fully adhered to.
All none exempt providers of premium mobile services in the UK are required to be registered with PhonepayPlus. Dialogue will not be able to provision any services operated by a none registered provider. Registration is quick and simple but requires payment of a variable yearly membership fee of around £100 - £150. Your account manager can confirm the price of registration. Please use this link to register http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/For-Business/Register-with-us.aspx.
In the UK it is the content provider (or level 2 provider) who is responsible for running services compliantly and who will be liable to sanction if they are in breach of the code. Dialogue has a regulatory duty to carry out due diligence on its customers and their services and will ask you to provide details of your service and your operation in order to carry out this process.
The UK Code states that certain services which are considered of particular risk to consumers require prior permission before they can operate.
You will be provided with a certificate to operate the service once it’s been approved. Dialogue is required to apply for this certificate on your behalf but adherence to the certificate is your responsibility. A list of the specific services which require prior permission can be found here http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/For-Business/Prior-permission.aspx.
Advertising & Marketing
Unsolicited (as opposed to solicited which is when a consumer actively invites the message) direct marketing text messages cannot be sent to individual subscribers without prior consent.
There is a very limited exception to this rule where an organisation can satisfy all of the following criteria:
- the organisation has collected the individual’s phone number whilst selling or negotiating to sell something to the individual; and
- the organisation only sends direct marketing text messages about its own goods or services similar to those originally sold; and
- the individual was able to opt out (free of charge) from receiving marketing in the original transaction, and in each subsequent marketing text message.
Senders must not conceal their identity when sending direct marketing text messages to any subscriber and must provide a valid marketing opt out address. Further information can be found on the www.ICO.org.uk or the www.DMA.org.uk websites.
Opt in requirements
Opt in is where a consumer confirms that they want to receive the service. For a paid for service this opt in needs to be explicit. All premium services require opt in, preferably by MO but ultimately fully auditable. Other than the services highlighted below single opt in is sufficient.
- Premium rate subscriptions under £4.50 require a single opt-in plus a standard rate confirmation message as the subscription starts.
- Premium rate subscriptions over £4.50 require a double opt-in.
- PIN opt-in should only be available via Payforit
A double opt in is in essence, first showing your interest to opt in and then, when you are asked if you are sure you wish to opt in now that you fully understand the terms, you confirm that you do. E.g. you send a keyword to a short code as prompted by advertising, then you receive a message stating something along the lines of, “you are about to enter a subscription service for £5 per week – to confirm respond ‘OK’ to this message”.
Caps on spending
Carriers in the UK request that a consumer spend is limited to no more than £30 per person per day. The mobile operator is able to claw back any spend over this amount. PPP regulations state that some services have different spending caps, and the full code should be examined to understand these limits.
All you need to know about shortcodes can be found at www.short-codes.com.
In order to use a charity shortcode you must be registered as a charity with HMRC and with the charity commission. Charity shortcodes cover the range from 70000 to 70999. None charity services cannot be operated on these shortcodes. Competition services are not able to run on charity shortcodes.
Adult services need to operate on an adult short code i.e. short codes beginning with 69*** or 89***. Adult sites will be blocked by the carriers unless the users handset is adult verified.
The www.imcb.org.uk provides guidance on what the mobile operators consider Adult content.
Mobile Web Sites
Carriers have mandated that one off or subscription access to premium rate services operating online, or via a mobile websites are required to bill through Payforit. Details of Payforit including the scheme rules can be found at www.payforituk.com. PhonepayPlus is the regulator for Payforit.
PhonepayPlus offer a screening service where you can contact them for compliance advice. You may wish to do this before you contact Dialogue. Alternatively you can seek advice from Dialogue directly. Contact PPP via:
Call 0845 026 1060*
Network Specific Guidelines
The networks provide operational guidelines which they enforce through Yellow and Red Cards
In October 2012 O2 issued their newest Audit Standards which provide a detailed list of the standards that they expect all providers of premium services to abide by. Where the standard is not reached by a provider O2 will issue Red Cards or Yellow Cards depending on the seriousness of the breach. Where it is a Red Card O2 will be likely to apply a 10 day suspension to the service.
This standard applies to Premium SMS and to PayforIt. The full Audit Standard can be downloaded here.
The Vodafone Compliance notice is effective from January 2013 and provides best practice due diligence and risk control requirements for partners. It incorporates the Vodafone Code of Practice and the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice as well as the Payforit Scheme Rules.
Dialogue is not responsible for any potential variance, misinterpretation, inaccuracies, or inconsistencies which may appear on this page. We stress that the information contained here is for guidance only.