itspa code of practice2018-10-09T18:08:45+00:00

Introduction to the ITSPA Code of Practice

ITSPA exists to encourage the development of a vigorous and competitive industry in providing voice telephony services using IP and other internet technologies. It sets and monitors basic customer related standards for its members in order to ensure that customers who choose to use an ITSPA member will have confidence that they will be provided with high standards of service and customer care.

ITSPA members recognise that internet telephony services are different in some respects from traditional public telephone services. The ITSPA Code of Practice is designed to help customers by ensuring that they receive suitable information in advance of agreeing to buy internet telephony services in order that they can have confidence in the way that an ITSPA member will do business with them.

ITSPA Members are required to comply with current legislative and regulatory requirements supplemented by the ITSPA Code of Practice, which provides guidance and information to Members and their customers. Further details can be found in Annex 1 of the ITSPA Code of Practice.

To give customers even more confidence, in the unlikely event that a complaint cannot be settled locally, the ITSPA Code of Practice contains an easily accessible dispute resolution scheme for the purpose of bringing such complaint to a satisfactory conclusion.

This Code of Practice addresses the provision of services, which are provided to residential customers and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees (“small businesses”).

This ITSPA Code of Practice is monitored and administered by the Council of ITSPA.

Requirements within the ITSPA Code of Practice will be superceded by existing or future legislation, should it be deemed to conflict with the regulatory environment. If this is the case, a review of the ITSPA Code of Practice would take place, to make the necessary amendments to ensure the code is compliant with all existing regulation.

Aims of the ITSPA Code of Practice

To promote the best interests of users of internet telephony services by ensuring a free and open market between ITSPA members and other providers of telephony services to the public;

To provide a framework which enables members to achieve and demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements designed to protect the interests of citizen- consumers;

To ensure there is clear pre-contractual information readily available regarding the terms and conditions on which internet telephony services are provided, including pricing, payment and service availability;

In the event of any form of dissatisfaction or complaint, to make available an easily accessible procedure so that these can be addressed and resolved in the most speedy and cost effective manner;

To ensure that Members comply with current legal and regulatory requirements;
and
To enhance the reputation of the internet telephony industry by promoting standards over and above those required by law and regulation.

Emergency Services Access

ITSPA members will have to comply with all regulatory requirements for 999 access and provide all the relevant information to consumers about the availability and reliability of their emergency service access.

How the ITSPA Code of Practice applies

1 This ITSPA Code of Practice and members’ obligations derived from it apply when a Member is engaged in providing telephony services to residential and small business customers in the UK by means of a public packet data network, with inbound and outbound access to and from the PSTN.

2 Every ITSPA member must subscribe to this ITSPA Code of Practice and comply with its mandatory provisions. Members are also encouraged to comply with those provisions that are recommendations but are not mandatory. All ITSPA members will receive an electronic copy of the ITSPA Code of Practice when becoming members, informing them of their requirement to comply with this code. New ITSPA members will also be informed of relevant Ofcom regulations, which they must abide with in order to comply with current guidelines.

3 In addition to complying with this ITSPA Code of Practice, every ITSPA member, where required by regulation, must have their own code of practice1, which contains information for customers and prospective customers that is specific to that member.

The individual code of practice must include but is not limited to the following information:

The member’s name and address;
A description of the services it provides;
That the purpose of the Code is to inform customers of their relationship with the member;
How to contact the member, with different contact information for different purposes, if necessary;
Reference to membership of a dispute resolution scheme;2
How to contact ITSPA and other relevant organisations, including, in
particular OFCOM;
That the member is a member of ITSPA and subscribes to this ITSPA Code of Practice; and
3.2 The individual code of practice and the ITSPA Code of Practice must be made available to any person who is a customer or who is considering buying services from the member, on request. This must be done by giving printed copies of them to that person or by posting them on the member’s website with a prominent link. The ITSPA Code of Practice may be posted by means of a link to the ITSPA web page containing the ITSPA Code of Practice.

3.3 To comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, a member must take reasonable steps to enable customers with disabilities to make use of its services and to benefit from its individual Code of Practice. To this end, Members must take reasonable steps to follow accepted practices and standards of accessibility, such as:

a) Producing all information in an accessible way, including the use of good line spacing, a reasonable sized font and sufficient contrast between type and background;
b) Following industry standard accessibility criteria for websites; and
c) Making copies of their individual Code of Practice available in alternative
formats.

3.4 The ITSPA Code of Practice will apply to every member’s activities in the areas that it covers. A member may adopt stricter standards in its individual code of practice. Where a member does so, it will be bound by those stricter standards.

3.5 A member may not opt out of a mandatory provision of the ITSPA Code of Practice or reduce or qualify its effect.

3.6 In addition to the Codes of Practice, a member shall comply with all applicable legislation and other legal and regulatory requirements in the country in which it operates.

3.7 This ITSPA Code of Practice is administered and enforced by ITSPA, acting through its Council and its authorised committees. It does not form part of the contract between a member and its customer except where the contract expressly provides for this.

General Requirements

4 Illegal use of services
Members must not promote the use of their services for illegal purposes and must take appropriate steps to guard against their services being used for such purposes.

5 Awareness
5.1 Members must use reasonable efforts to communicate to their staff that their company is a member of ITSPA and to ensure that all relevant staff are familiar with the obligations arising under the ITSPA Code of Practice.
5.2 Members should include the ITSPA logo on their websites, with a link to the ITSPA web-site.

6 Promotion
Members must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that their promotional material complies with all applicable legislation and non-statutory regulation, including in particular, that:-
a) If transmitted by radio, television, teletext, telephone, facsimile or any other form of communication, it observes the provisions of this ITSPA Code of Practice and the Codes of Practice published by OFCOM or any other relevant regulatory body in the manner most reasonable and appropriate to the technology employed;
b) It complies with the provisions of the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion supervised by the Advertising Standards Authority; and
c) Promotional material and all associated services comply with the Code of Practice applied by Phonepayplus when access to them is made via a premium rate telephone call.

7 Customer information
7.1 Service reliability
7.1.1 It is recommended that the following message is included in the terms and conditions and user guides of all Internet telephony services provided to residential and small business customers.
“IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This is a Voice over Data Network service, and as such, it is dependent on your connection to the data network and the data network itself. Your service may therefore cease to function if there is a power failure or a failure in the underlying data network.”
7.1.2 Members must take active steps to draw its customers’ attention to any significant differences in service reliability between the member’s service and circuit switched public telephony networks. This must be done at the point of sale and in any user guide issued by the member.
7.2 Emergency Calls
ITSPA members will have to comply with all regulatory requirements for 999 access and provide all the relevant information to consumers about the availability and reliability of their emergency service access.

8 Best practice recommendations
ITSPA recommends that Members adhere to the following best practice guidelines where possible. From time to time, ITSPA will publish Best Current Practice documents (BCPs) on specific issues, following discussion amongst the membership. ITSPA recommends that all members adhere to these publications.
8.1 ITSPA identification: Members should include the ITSPA logo on their websites, with a link to the ITSPA web-site.
8.2 Security: ITSPA recommends that Members have systems to protect themselves and their customers from fraudulent use and advise all members to follow appropriate ITSPA security BCPs that are produced and updated on a regular basis. ITSPA also recommends that Members encourage their customers to read the relevant ITSPA security BCPs which are produced or an alternative document produced by the member with substantially the same content.
8.3 Caller ID should be validated against the authenticated user to prevent fraud and spam.
8.4 Every Member is recommended to develop an Acceptable Use Policy.
8.5 For the avoidance of doubt, breach of any ITSPA best practice recommendation set out in this section 8 shall not constitute a breach of the ITSPA Code of Practice and shall not cause ITSPA to invoke the Complaints Procedure.

9 Customer contracts
9.1 Members must ensure that steps are taken to ensure that the person entering into a contract is authorised to represent the customer in entering into the contract for telephone services at the premises.
9.2 Order forms and contract forms are to be designed so that the contractual nature of the document is clear to the customer. Order forms and contract forms should therefore contain a statement of the contractual nature of the document immediately adjacent to where the customer signs the document or indicates that he agrees to take service in such a way that the statement cannot easily be obscured or concealed.
9.3 Where a face-to-face approach to the customer takes place the customer should be given the information set out in this paragraph, in writing, in a clear and comprehensible manner:
(a) Essential information including the identity of the company, its address, telephone, fax and e-mail contact details;
(b) A description of the telephone service sufficient to enable the customer to understand the option that the customer has chosen, and how it works;
(c) Information about the major elements of the service, including the cost of any standing charges, the payment terms, line rental, key call types and details of “protected or special support” arrangements.
(d) The arrangements for provision of the service, including the order process and, as accurately as possible, the likely date of provision. Where there may be significant delay in the likely date of provision, the customer should be informed of this;
(e) The circumstances in which the service may be withdrawn and the procedure for a withdrawal;
(f) The existence of any right of cancellation and the process for exercising it;
(g) The period for which the charges remain valid; and
(h) The minimum period of contract, and minimum contract charges, if any.
9.4 Customers are to be made aware of the existence of this Code of Practice and preferably provided with a summary.
9.5 In the case of internet orders, a well sign-posted hyperlink to the information required by paragraphs 9.1 to 9.4 above must be prominently displayed, with the information being capable of being easily downloaded and printed.

10 Number Portability
10.1 All number portability transactions with customers and other service providers must be undertaken in accordance with current legal and regulatory rules and guidelines and also with any industry agreed processes and procedures.
10.2 ITSPA members are encouraged to comply with its Best Common Practice Document on porting numbers between the membership. This BCP outlines ITSPA’s recommended policy of enabling the free and open transfer of telephone numbers amongst its members and the protection of a customer’s number in the event of an ITSPA member ceasing to trade.
The BCP can be found at: http://www.itspa.org.uk/consultation/070126_portingBCP .pdf
10.3 In the interest of promoting confidence in the VoIP industry and to assist quick & efficient porting, it is recommended that ITSPA members publish the names of those companies with whom they are able to port numbers both to and from. This information should be readily accessible to potential and existing customers.

11 Filtering and Blocking
11.1 ITSPA members who offer an Internet Service are encouraged to comply with the ISPA (Internet Services’ Providers Association) Best Common Practice Document “Blocking and Filtering of Internet Traffic”, which was formulated in discussion with ITSPA. The ISPA BCP can be found at: http://www.ispa.org.uk/home/page_327.html

12 Pricing Information
12.1 Members must ensure that charges for services are clearly stated in relevant promotional material and are readily available to customers. Members must also make clear whether any such charges quoted are inclusive or exclusive of VAT. Where additional charges, for example on-line charges, are payable this should be stated.
12.2 Members must use reasonable endeavours to ensure that textual pricing information relating to charges for services is accurate, up to date, legible, prominent and presented in such a way that does not require close examination.

13 Data Protection and Privacy
13.1 Members shall comply with UK legislation relating to the protection of information held in relation to UK data subjects.

14 Complaints Procedure and Sanctions
14.1 Members’ obligations
14.1.1 A Member’s code of practice for complaints shall include a Dispute Resolution Scheme within the meaning of Condition 14 of the General Conditions of Entitlement.
14.1.2 Every Member shall notify ITSPA of a single point of contact (“Contact”) for the member authorised to deal with ITSPA complaints. The Contact shall be familiar with the ITSPA Complaints Procedure.
14.2 Complaints about breaching the ITSPA Code of Practice
14.2.1 Where a complaint is made that a member has acted in breach of the ITSPA Code of Practice, the complaint shall be investigated and adjudicated by ITSPA in accordance with its rules and procedures on complaints.3
14.2.2 ITSPA may refuse to adjudicate on a complaint where the subject matter of the complaint is the subject of legal proceedings or for any other reason ITSPA sees fit, details of which must be supplied to the complainant.
14.2.3 Where a complaint appears to fall within the ambit of a particular regulatory body or self- regulatory body (for example PhonepayPlus or the Advertising Standards Authority), ITSPA may refer the complaint to that body as well as, or instead of, ITSPA adjudicating on the complaint.
14.3 Sanctions
14.3.1 Where the Council decides, pursuant to Clause 14.2.1 above, that a Member has breached the Code, the Council may, having taken all relevant circumstances into account:
(a) require the Member to remedy the breach; and/or
(b) require an assurance from the Member, relating to future behaviour, in terms dictated by the Council; and/or
(c) suspend the Member from ITSPA without any reimbursement of membership fees in whole or in part; and/or
(d) expel the Member, in accordance with Article 3 of ITSPA’s Articles of Association.
14.3.2 Prior to its resolution, the details of any complaint to which the ITSPA complaints procedure has been applied, shall be kept confidential by ITSPA and the relevant member. ITSPA shall impose an obligation of confidence on all complainants as a pre-condition of ITSPA initiating the ITSPA complaints procedure.

15 Changes to the ITSPA Code of Practice
15.1 The ITSPA Council may amend this ITSPA Code of Practice by a simple majority vote at a duly convened meeting. Notice of such meeting must be given to all Members of ITSPA at least 28 days in advance and must contain the text of the proposed amendment. The 28 day notice period may be reduced or waived by a two-thirds majority vote of all the Members of ITSPA entitled to vote at general meetings of ITSPA.
To request a copy of the Code of Practice in alternative forms, please call +44 (0)20 7340 8733 or email admin@itspa.org.uk

Annex 1

Regulatory Requirements
ITSPA members must be particularly aware of two Ofcom regulatory statements in relation to VoIP. These are:

The Regulation of VoIP Services; Statement and publication of statutory notifications under section 48(1) of the Communications Act 2003 modifying General Conditions 14 and 18 (29th March 2007). http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/voipregulation/statement/voipstatement.pdf
Regulation of VoIP Services: Access to the Emergency Services; Statement and publication of a statutory notification under section 48(1) of the Communications Act 2003 modifying General Condition 4 (5th December 2007). http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/voip/statement/voipstatement.pdf

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