Issued By
North Yorkshire County Council



SHOPPERS in North Yorkshire are being urged not to call premium rate numbers in the hunt for a bargain.

The warning follows a complaint from a customer in Harrogate who was responding to a private advert for the very popular PlayStation 2. It was advertised as an unwanted gift. When the woman rang the number in the publication she was given a number of excuses and told to 'stay on the line'. After some time the would-be customer rang off.

After becoming suspicious she rang BT and was told she would be charged the premium rate of 1.50 a minute. As a result of the woman's complaint North Yorkshire trading standards officers executed a search warrant on premises in Lincolnshire. A man has been arrested and is being investigated for obtaining property by deception and a number of other offences.

Stuart Pudney, head of North Yorkshire County Council's trading standards investigation team, said: "People should be aware of calling premium rate numbers because they always start with 090. They are considerably more expensive than normal private numbers because of the charging system. The company or individual which set up the number collects a percentage of the charge made from premium rate numbers.

"It's possible that anyone setting up a premium rate number will make a substantial amount of money from incoming calls, particularly if people are left holding on. In this particular case, and we don't believe it is an isolated example, the caller was left 'hanging on the line' for several minutes before realising the situation."

In this instance the advert in question was not in a North Yorkshire-based publication. However, in the interests of protecting North Yorkshire consumers from such scams, a number of newspapers have already agreed they will not accept any private ads using premium rate phone numbers in the future.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services requires that premium rate services and associated promotional material to be legal, decent and honest. It also requires the appropriate pricing information to be provided in advance to consumers ringing the number. This should be in the form of a price per minute or the total cost to the consumer including VAT.

Contact: Richard Flinton on 01609-766400