Statement on consumer protection test for telephone number allocation
1.1 Ofcom is introducing new restrictions on the way that we issue telephone numbers to communications providers to ensure the best use of numbers and to better protect consumers from scams, fraud and other forms of abuse. This statement sets out our decision to implement the new consumer protection test for telephone number allocation and our reasons for doing so.
1.2 We are responsible for managing the UK’s telephone numbers. It is our duty under the Communications Act 2003 (‘the Act’) to ensure that the best use is made of those numbers so that consumers can benefit from the services that they support. Scams, frauds and other abuses carried out by individuals and/or companies involving telephone numbers harm consumers’ interests. Left unchecked, they can also threaten consumer confidence and damage the reputation of certain telephone number ranges and the legitimate services provided on those numbers. While it is important for the promotion of competition that communications providers have appropriate access to numbers, we must balance this with our duty to ensure the best use of numbers and to protect citizens and consumers.
1.3 The new test that we are introducing into our process for allocating numbers to communications providers will focus on the behaviour that uses numbers to cause serious or repeated harm to consumers. We will identify and publish lists of individuals and companies that have a history of using numbers to cause serious or repeated harm. We will not allocate telephone numbers in certain ranges to applicants who are on those lists.
1.4 The test will apply to numbers newly allocated by Ofcom to communications providers. However, in responding to our earlier consultation, many stakeholders supported a test of this nature applying more widely than Ofcom’s allocation of numbers to include numbers sub-allocated and assigned by communications providers and resellers to their customers.
1.5 We have decided, at least initially, to permit providers to take a self-regulatory approach to introducing a similar consumer protection test into their own number assignment processes. We strongly encourage all providers to do so. Recognising that the costs of implementing the consumer protection test are likely to vary considerably between providers, introducing the test in this way allows each provider to apply the format that best suits their number assignment processes.
1.6 Communications providers may adopt our test as a model of how consumer protection could be incorporated into number assignment decisions. We are publishing lists of individuals and companies to whom we will not be allocating numbers to help them do so.
1.7 We will be monitoring progress to see if, as we expect, this approach proves to be sufficient. If it does not, we will consider whether additional regulation is required.
The consumer protection test consultation
1.8 We initially raised the idea of a consumer protection test for number allocation in our consultation document Telephone Numbering – Safeguarding the future of numbers (‘the Numbering Policy Review’) in February 2006 . A wide range of stakeholders supported the idea and agreed that more work should be done to develop the detail of any such test. After further work and discussions with various stakeholders, we set out our proposals for the consumer protection test in our consultation document Consumer protection test for telephone number allocation (‘the CPT consultation’) in May 2007.
1.9 Respondents to the CPT consultation agreed that consumer protection should be taken into account at the time of number allocation and that information on past use of numbers should be considered as part of the allocation process. However, it was clear from responses that an obligation on all parties to apply the test in the manner proposed in the CPT consultation would be a significant burden for some communications providers.
1.10 Having carefully considered the consultation comments, we continue to believe that consumer protection considerations should form part of the decision-making process when we allocate numbers but have decided that the test as proposed in the CPT consultation should be revised. Details of the test to be implemented are set out below and in detail in this statement.
The revised Consumer Protection Test for telephone number allocation (‘the CPT’)
1.11 We will compile and publish two lists (known collectively as ‘the CPT Lists’). These will contain the names of individuals and companies to whom further allocations of numbers included in the scope of the test will not be made by Ofcom. Although we allocate numbers only to communications providers, the CPT Lists may also contain the names of non-communications providers who have used numbers to cause consumer harm and to whom communications providers and resellers are expected to refuse the assignment of numbers.
1.12 The ‘under assessment list’ is a list of individuals and companies that we are assessing to determine whether they have used telephone numbers in a way that has caused serious or repeated harm to consumers. The persons under assessment would usually have come to our attention by being subject to a decision made under consumer protection legislation by a relevant enforcement authority. If we are satisfied that the individual or company has used telephone numbers to cause serious or repeated consumer harm, they will be listed on the ‘number refusal list’ (see below). If not, the individual or company will be removed from the CPT Lists.
1.13 The ‘number refusal list’ is a list of individuals and companies that, following assessment, we are satisfied have used telephone numbers in a way that has caused serious or repeated harm to consumers in the past and to whom we consider that the allocation of further telephone numbers would not be the “best use” of those numbers. Inclusion on the list, and for how long, would depend on factors including the seriousness of the behaviour and the individual or company’s past history of using numbers to cause detriment to consumers.
1.14 We will publish the CPT Lists on our website. We strongly encourage all providers that assign telephone numbers to others to take best use of numbers and consumer protection into account when making assignment decisions and to refer to the CPT Lists for that purpose.
1.15 We will apply the CPT when allocating numbers in ranges with the strongest evidence of consumer abuse conducted through their use. As a result, the CPT will initially apply to 070 personal numbers; 087 (excluding 0870) special services higher rate numbers and 09 premium rate numbers. The CPT will not initially apply to 03, 056 or the reminder of the 08 ranges as proposed in the CPT consultation or any of the remaining number ranges in use. We will keep the number ranges included in the CPT under review.
1.16 We will introduce the CPT into our allocation process on 1 January 2009. From 11 December 2008, communications providers applying to us for the allocation of numbers in the 070, 087 (excluding 0870) and 09 ranges will need to complete the modified 07, 08 and 09 application forms which will be made available on our website from that date and supply the additional identification information that we require to determine whether the applicant is listed on the CPT Lists. The initial under assessment list, which will include individuals and companies that have been the subject of relevant enforcement actions during the previous twelve months, will be published on 1 January 2009 or shortly afterwards. The first ‘number refusal list’ will be published following assessment of the individuals and companies on the under assessment list.
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Consumer protection test for telephone number allocation - including modifications to the application forms for 07, 08 and 09 numbers (287 kB)
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