Probe to examine 999 web callsWatchdog also tightens Voip regulations

30 March 2007

voip

Customers making phone calls over the internet cannot always get through to 999 numbers, according to the telecoms regulator.

Ofcom is to consult on whether access to emergency services via the voice over internet protocol (Voip) service should be made compulsory.

It follows concerns that customers who cannot call 999 using their Voip phones are at a disadvantage.

Ofcom today announced a new code which requires Voip suppliers to state whether customers can call emergency services, directory enquiries and the operator.

Emergency services

Firms which do not offer 999 access must make clear to callers via a recorded message that access is barred.

Voip calls work by sending the caller's voice over the internet as packets of information in the same way as photos, text and other data.

The service is now offered via PCs, home phones and mobiles.

It is increasingly popular in the UK, with the industry predicting up to three million users will be signed up by the end of this year.

Stricter controls

But the Internet Telephony Services Providers' Association (Itspa) said its members feared Voip suppliers were subject to stricter controls than the rest of the telecoms industry.

'These new regulations will be particularly hard to enforce against providers who are based overseas, but market their services within the UK,' it said.

'This will be a significant threat to the UK consumer, who may not be aware of the disparity.'

Complying with the new code will also involve extra costs for affected firms, Itspa warned.

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