Information, Connection and Signposting Services (ICSS) update

Regulatory /

The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) is introducing new rules for ICSS

The PSA has introduced new Special conditions for all ICSS which will come in to force on 20 December 2019. The special conditions will cover all ICSS regardless of the number range they are using.

The new special conditions aim to reduce confusion and protect people from high call charges when using an ICSS.

What is an ICSS?

Information, Connection or Signpost Services (ICSS) provide the caller with the option to be connected onto a business or provide information or advice about companies and services.

Why does ICSS exist and how does it work?

An ICSS provider will claim that they are trying to make it easy for people to locate a phone number of a business or organisation they are searching for.
In reality, they are using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to mislead people into dialling the ICSS number rather than the number for the business or organisation they searched for.

ICSS providers will use keywords such as “British Airways” in online ads such as Google Ad-words and show a revenue-sharing phone number, such as 084 which can cost up to 7p per minute plus the access charge.

Behind the scenes, the ICSS provider will forward their 084 Number to British Airways customer service number and make money from the inbound call revenue from the 084 number.

What is changing for ICSS?

The updated Special conditions extended PSA regulation to all ICSS, regardless of the number range they are using.

The Special conditions aim to improve the information given to people in search results and to make it clearer that a third party operates the ICSS number, and that calls via an ICSS may be more expensive than calling the organisation directly.

The updated Special conditions include requirements that:

  • Services must not promote using website addresses (URLs) which mislead the consumer into believing the ICSS website is associated with the organisation they have searched for.
  • Promotional material must be distinct in appearance from that of the organisation being searched for by the consumer.
  • ICSS providers must inform consumers of any extra costs for connecting calls and give consumers the option to refuse an onward connection if it incurs extra costs.
  • Pricing information must be prominent, and an accurate description of the service and the name of ICSS provider should be made clear on webpages close to the call to action or phone number.

Why are ICSS rules changing?

The new rules are designed to protect people from accidentally using an ICSS believing that they are calling the end organisation they are searching for.

There have been concerns from consumers, businesses and other organisations, including government departments and agencies, that are targeted by ICSS.

The updated Special conditions will come in to force for all ICSS on 20 December 2019.

About the PSA

The Phone-paid Services Authority has been appointed by Ofcom to regulate Phone-paid services in the UK.

Phone-paid services are the goods and services that you can buy by charging the cost to your phone bill or pre-pay account. In law, Phone-paid services are referred to as premium rate services.

Mark Burcher