ACM: stricter action against abuse of premium-rate telephone numbers

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will take stricter action against abuse of premium-rate telephone numbers beginning with 0900, 0906, 0909, and four-digit telephone numbers beginning with 18. These numbers are sometimes misused, particularly by directory assistance services, according to indications that ACM receives. In order to be able to take action effectively, ACM wishes to clarify the rules for these premium-rate numbers.

You have until October 18 to share your opinions

ACM invites interested parties to share their opinions on the draft version of the rules. They can do so through Wednesday, October 18, 2017. ACM will take into account these opinions when drawing up the final version of the rules.

ACM will check more strictly and take action more actively

When businesses apply for numbers beginning with 0900, 0906, 0909 or four-digit numbers beginning with 18, ACM will check more strictly whether or not the intended service complies with all of the rules. As a result, applicants may have to answer more questions before ACM can clear their applications. ACM will also take action more actively against parties that do not comply with the rules. As a consequence, some businesses may have to adjust or even suspend their services in the near future, even if they have already been active for some time.

What is the problem?

Suppose a consumer wishes to call their telecom provider’s customer service, and looks for the number using their smartphone. At the top of the search results, an ad for a directory assistance number appears. The consumer is under the assumption that they can call their telecom provider’s toll-free number directly, but is, in fact, calling a directory assistance number at 90 cents per minute, without being aware of it. This is a very easy way for the directory assistance service to make money. One of the consequences of the new policy rules is that they prevent 0900 or 0909 numbers from solely being used to charge the directory assistance rate as long as possible. In addition, callers must be informed up-front about the fact that they will be redirected, that the one they are calling actually offers a director assistance service, and what rates apply after being redirected.