Premium rate phone services have been in the news lately due to the scandals over their use in various television programmes. A premium rate service means that the caller is charged for information or entertainment over and above the normal rate for a telephone call. Premium rate numbers in the UK normally start with an 09 dialling code and they are commonly used for phone in competitions, quiz programmes, chat lines, dating services and downloadable content such as ringtones.

PhonepayPlus is the regulatory body for all premium rate services in the UK. They used to be known as ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services, up until October 15th 2007. PhonepayPlus publish a code of practice and guidelines for premium rate phone services that must be complied with by anyone providing premium rate services.

Here are just a few of the ways in which premium rate phone services may be profitably employed:

  1. Counselling and Advice Lines. These may involve live chat with an advisor. For example:
    • Weight Loss Support
    • How to stop smoking
    • Parenting
    • Medical Advice
    • Beauty Tips
  2. Information Services. These may utilise recorded messages. For example:
    • Astrology
    • Weather
    • Holiday Destinations
    • Medical Advice
    • Racing and sports tips.
    • Entertainment
    • Special offers
  3. Chat Lines. Callers will interact with one another anonymously and the lines will need to be monitored by a designated administrator. Chat lines that are dedicated to a specific topic allowing participants to share their views can be very popular. For example:
    • Cars and transport.
    • Travel
    • Computer Games
    • Sports
    • Politics
  4. Dating Services. Generally these will enable callers to make contact with one another and possibly arrange to meet. Niche groups would include:
    • Specific age ranges (e.g. Over 50)
    • Gay, straight and bisexual men and women
    • Transgender
    • Cultural and ethnic groups.
  5. Competitions and quizzes
  6. Downloadable products such as ringtones.
  7. Computer Support. Clients seeking help with computer problems must call the premium rate number which then provides them with guidance in how to diagnose and fix their problem or how to escalate the issue to a field service engineer.

An excellent example of how premium rate services can be utilised for the benefit of both the clients and the service providers is in the area of psychotherapy and support for those receiving treatment for mental health issues. Providing telephone numbers that can be called at any time, day or night, from which professional support and advice would be provided enables people to call at the time when they most need help and support. This has been found to be more useful and effective than requiring patients to make an appointment and attend a therapy session at a specified time and location. A service like this would typically charge around £1.50 per minute with a maximum call time of 20 minutes.

Many businesses benefit from providing customers with a telephone number which they can call for support at any time. Customers feel more secure if they know that, if they need help or advice, they have a number to call. Premium rate phone numbers can provide customers with the security and confidence that they desire and provide the business with a source of revenue for the added value service that they are providing.


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