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Telekom-Control Commission imposes for the first time payment stop for value-added numbers

In response to complaints related to possible misuse of the value-added numbers 0900/540517, 0900/540575 and 0900/540573, the Telekom-Control Commission (TKK) for the first time made use of its new powers and issued an official decision, with effect from today, imposing a three-month payment stop. This means that the service provider will receive no payments for calls made to these numbers for three months.

There is reasonable suspicion that calls were randomly made to phone customers with the aim of inciting them through false pretence to call these costly numbers, charged at EUR 3.64 a minute. The customers concerned were misleadingly advised that they could only terminate a costly agreement (e.g. an agreement to purchase lottery tickets) by calling these value-added numbers. For each call to terminate the supposed agreement – which in fact was never concluded - about EUR 50 in charges are incurred to callers.

Calls made to these value-added numbers need not be paid for the time being

One of the immediate legal effects of the decision issued is to comprehensively protect all phone customers who are misled to call these numbers. This applies, however, only to phone calls for which the customer’s phone operator has not yet paid out the charges to the service provider. Charges for such calls must not be paid for three months. If the suspected misuse is confirmed, it can be expected that these charges will not have to be paid at all.

The customer’s phone operator is even required to refund the amounts previously paid for calls to these value-added numbers, without the customer having to file an objection against the bill.

New statutory powers enable TKK intervention

The current official decision represents the first use on the part of the TKK of its new powers, granted in November 2011, which are specified in Art. 24a of the Austrian Telecommunications Act 2003 (TKG). The amendment empowers the TKK to impose preliminary measures to safeguard against misuse of value-added services. The main purpose of the provision is to ensure that costs arising from value-added services under suspicion of misuse are safeguarded for the time being, until the facts of the case and the legal situation can be clarified, either in the course of civil proceedings or through an agreement between network operators. The measure to refund previously paid phone costs to all affected subscribers is also an active contribution to preventing widespread losses to many individuals.

The official decision is published on the RTR website: