Premium Rate Services

Under section 90 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983 (No. 24 of 1983) Telecom Eireann was empowered to make schemes relating to tariffs terms and conditions of service. It introduced a data virtual private network facility, answering facility and 1890 calls.

Premium rate services in telecommunications commenced in 1988. They involved a service part of which is charged through the telephone call cost. Initial services supplied to whether information on sports as well as other matters.

Adult services caused controversy. A regulator of premium rate telephone services was appointed with lay assessors. The regulator could publish a code of practice in relation to use of the servicest. Service providers could not transmit messages or make communications which were offensive indecent or obscene known to be false causing inconvenience or annoyance or needless anxiety.

The regulator published a code of practice. The terms of contract with Telecom provided that services might be monitored by way of samples from time to time to ensure compliance with the code. Services and promotional material must not include material including violence sadism,  cruelty of repulsive a horrible nature. They must not interfere with privacy induce fear or anxiety encourage person to engage in dangerous practices for use harmful substances or promote or induce disharmony based on race religion gender or sexual orientation.

A service provider must ensure that the service was not used for transmission of matter which is grossly offensive or of an indecent or obscene character.Sexual services defined as services of a suggestive sexually suggestive or titillating nature. Promotions for services of a sexual nature must not be  carried in a publication for children or young persons. Live services could be required to be recorded and made available. They were to be retained for a period.

A contract was entered between Telecom Eireann and the regulator by which it agreed to comply with the directions of the regulator in relation to premium rate services. The Telecom Eireann entered corresponding agreements with the service providers under which they were to fund the regulator.

Code on Premium Rate Services

The communications regulator ComReg publishes a code under the Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act 2010.  It is the regulator of premium rate services providers.

They are goods and services that can be purchased by charging the cost to a phone bill; classically, they involve information and entertainment services.

The Commission for Communications Regulations publishes a code for premium rate services.  It applies to promotions that encompass any act or activity the intent or effect of which is either directly or indirectly to advertise or draw attention to a premium rate service in order to encourage its use.

Requirements of Promotions

The Code requires that any promotional material must be decent and honest and not be harmful. A promotion is deemed unfair, if it is not exercised by special skill and care, which might reasonably be expected in an honest market practice or fails to act in good faith, causing an average consumer to make a transactional decision which they would not otherwise have undertaken by impairing their ability to make an informed decision.

All material information must be set out in a clear, ambiguous and legible or audible manner so as to enable an end-user to make an informed decision.  It must not omit material information likely to cause the average end-user to make a decision, which would not have otherwise been undertaken.

Promotions must not include false or misleading information relating to the main characteristics of the service, price, or end-users rights.   If it can be reasonably foreseen that the promotion may affect a vulnerable group, the average end-user of that group must be considered in making the assessment.   The information will be assessed in its context, including the space or time available.

Information for User

The Provider must ensure that certain information is provided to end-users prior to incurring charges including

  • the name and description of the service,
  • all costs,
  • if it is a subscription service, that it is so;
  • details of the provider including its business name, contact details,
  • age restriction,
  • technical requirements,
  • information regarding the use and service of the product, use of personal data; where any information or personal data is to be used for marketing, the applicable legal requirements must be followed in particular including giving information and obtaining explicit consent in relation to use.

Users must be provided with clear, comprehensive and unambiguous information of

  • the true cost of the service including VAT, date, network costs, sign-up costs;
  • price per message and number of messages required to complete a transaction; subscription particulars;
  • price per minute for time-based services,
  • total cost including any minimum period requirements;
  • requirements for calls,
  • prices for calls, on particular networks.

Visual promotions must be in a form that ensures information is not lost due to resizing, cropping, change of format.

TV and Radio

Certain information is required for TV and radio ads including

  • name and description of the service,
  • costs of non-subscription services are more than €2,
  • the fact where it is a subscription service that this so and
  • the cost per period and the charge period.

Promotional Messages

Promotional messages must be distinguished from subscription confirmation messages, charged messages, remainder messages, and non-subscribed messages by the inclusion of the term free message.

Promotional messages sent by a short message service or WAP include information in relation to opting out of promotions to a free or low-cost service that does not incur a premium rate charge.

Particular Services

Promotions for subscription services must include

  • a description,
  • sufficient name to identify the service provider.

The name of the service and certain particulars is to be provided.  They are particulars as to the minimum prominence that must be given to certain key information.

Sexual entertainment services, promotions must not appear in publications intended for children or be distributed free.  Chat line services, dating services must communicate that the service is only available to persons over 18 and must not imply that there is an exchange of messages with end-users or that users will be able to meet other end-users.

In relation to competition services, advertisements must state that the information is likely to affect an average end-user’s decision to participate, including in particular, details of how the competition operates, relevant terms and conditions, closing dates, eligibility restrictions, costs,  prizes, closing date.

The information must be readily available in relation to particulars of how the competition is run and organised if not in the original material.  Promotional material for competitions must not claim to offer a prize without in fact awarding a prize or equivalent, use certain words such as win prize or exaggerate the chance of winning or suggest that winning is a certainty.

There are specific provisions in relation to entertainment service, children’s services, and  services for charitable organisations.


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