Wednesday, January 28th saw Communications Minister, Eamon Ryan present a new law to halt malpractice by broadcasters in premium rate competitions to the Oireachtas.
At the report stage of the Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Bill 2009, Minister Ryan outlined new provisions under the Bill to tackle broadcasters who scam the public through premium rate services they provide i.e. competitions such as ‘Play TV’.
Under the new law, TV3 for ‘Play TV’ and RTÉ for competitions such as on the ‘Late Late Show’ will come under the regulatory regime of ComReg. They will be obliged to have a licence to operate and must abide by the conditions of that licence. Failure to comply will result in possible suspension or revocation of the licence and broadcasters could be fined up to €250,000.
Overcharging will be a separate offence and refunds will be allowed for under the legislation. Speaking to the Seanad Minister Ryan said, “This Bill is tackling rogue operators who operate premium rate phone lines or text message services. I am pleased that the legislation will now apply to services that are broadcast on television as well.
”This is a timely piece of legislation, which will protect consumers. Broadcasters must now be very careful in their operation of these services. The Government will not stand for its citizens being duped, defrauded or overcharged by corporate entities.”
TV3 responded to news of the bill by saying it welcomes Minister Ryan’s move to bring the regulation of broadcast premium rate services within the remit of ComReg, so long as there will be clear rules which will be applied consistently and fairly to all broadcasters including those in the State sector.
A release from the broadcaster also stated: “There is now an unprecedented level of broadcasting regulation in Ireland. It is imperative that The Department of Communications is absolutely clear about which regulator is responsible for which regulation.”
The statement finished with the note that : “In relation to Play TV, TV3 has at all times engaged co-operatively with the various regulatory authorities who have been involved, and has implemented any changes requested by them. We note that the BAI’s recent judgements concern complaints pre-dating changes introduced to the service last November. The service provider has been notified by TV3 of the BAI’s concerns. TV3 will insist on the highest compliance standards. “
The Bill, which is going through its final stages, is due to be signed into law in early February.