MPs have warned that some premium rate phone services are little more than a "criminal scam" designed to rip off innocent people.
What's more, they're concerned that premium rate regulator, ICSTIS, might not be up to the task of regulating an industry that continues to allow people to be conned.
Sir George Young, Conservative MP for NW Hants, and Derek Wyatt, Labour MP for Sittingbourne & Sheppey, are launching a debate in Parliament on Tuesday about premium rate scams. The MPs will also be focusing their attention on "rogue diallers" which connect computers to expensive phone numbers.
"We both have constituents who have been billed for calls they have never made, because a virus has been installed on their computer which dials a premium rate number," said the MPs in a joint statement. "We have other cases where folk have clicked a pop-up box - without being told they would be landed with a sizeable bill for the call.
"We believe there is a criminal scam going on here, and we are concerned that the regulatory mechanism may be inadequate for the task. We know that, last year, two thirds of the fines levied by the regulator weren’t paid and many people who call ICSTIS cannot get through," they said.
Indeed, while ICSTIS dished out fines last year of around £1.2m it only managed to collect £483,323. No-one from ICSTIS was available for comment at the time of writing.
However, the regulator is known to have tried to highlight the problems of rogue diallers after admitting that complaints about Internet-related premium-rate services have rocketed.
In particular, it's concerned that Net users are being stung by rogue "dialler software" that disconnects PCs from an ISP before reconnecting them to a premium-rate service.
Last month, an Internet sex company was fined £10,000 after more than 370 punters complained that it had installed software on their PCs that connected them to a premium-rate phone line. ®