What are audiotext services?
Audiotext services are supported over the telephone service (fixed or mobile) and are distinguishable because of their content and specific nature.
How can I gain access to audiotext services?
Companies offering networks and services which support the provision of audiotext services must ensure that access to these services are barred by default, without charge; these services can only be activated, in full or selectively, if the user requests access to them in writing.
Any operator which fails to comply with the obligation to bar audiotext services is committing an offence, punishable with a fine.
What means can be used to accede to audiotext services?
As long as the requirements described in the previous number are met, access to audiotext services may be obtained via a fixed telephone, a mobile telephone or a personal computer (PC). In this last case the connection is made via the subscriber's fixed telephone access also supporting access to the Internet, although the connection to the audiotext number is made via the PC.
Communications may sometimes be established through the PC and modem without the knowledge of the user. This may occur through the installation by download of certain intrusive Trojan horse programmes (which may also be resident in armed email attachments) that originate the Internet disconnection and the connection to audiotext service provider sites, with the cost of communication being equal to the price of these services.
Thus a prior Internet connection is not required for access to this type of services because, after the site is accessed for the first time and downloaded to the PC, the saved programme makes the connection directly. Disconnecting from the Internet is not enough to avoid this kind of communication via the modem, the modem itself must be disconnected.
Who can exercise this activity?
This activity may be exercised by individuals who have a current activity registered with the Portuguese tax authorities or by legally constituted legal persons. Providers intending to offer audiotext services are also required to register with ANACOM.
Decisions on applications for registration with ANACOM are issued within 10 days from the receipt of the information required by law. If no decision has been issued after 10 days, the application for registration shall be considered tacitly approved.
Undertakings which are legally established in a Member State of the European Union or the European Economic Area for the provision of audiotext services are not required to register if they intend to carry on the same activity within Portuguese territory, either permanently, establishing themselves in Portugal, or on an occasional or sporadic basis, under the freedom to provide services. However, such undertakings remain subject to the legal conditions governing the exercise of the activity as apply to them, including those under articles 5 to 9 of Decree-Law no. 177/99 of 21 May, as amended by Decree-Law no. 8/2013, of 18 Januaryhttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1151642.
What is necessary to commence trading?
Prior to commencing their activity, registered entities must give ANACOM notice as to the services which they intend to provide. This notification must include indication of the provider's name, address and other physical and electronic contact details, as well as information on the general conditions governing provision of the services concerned.
Providers are also required, either simultaneously or subsequently, to apply to ANACOM for the allocation of access codes. This request must include the following items:
- an express declaration providing a detailed description of the service that the provider proposes to offer;
- technical plan identifying the equipment to be used;
- indication of the provider of support services.
The access codes will be assigned by ANACOM within 15 days after receipt of the specified items.
Without prejudice to paragraph 2 of article 8 of Decree-Law no. 177/99 of 21 May, as amended by Decree-Law no. 8/2013, of 18 Januaryhttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1151642, the provision of audiotext services on national territory using access codes from numbering plans of other Member States of the European Union or of the European Economic Area in which the provider is established shall be allowed, provided that such codes fulfil the requirements set out in articles 9 in the Portuguese language.
What are the obligations of audiotext service providers?
In accordance with Decree-Law no. 177/99 of 21 May, as amended by Decree-Law no. 8/2013, of 18 Januaryhttps://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1151642, providers of audiotext services are subject to a set of obligations:
- to observe the conditions and restrictions inherent to the respective access code;
- to comply with applicable legislation in respect of advertising, copyright and related rights, consumer protection, protection of personal data, industrial property, and legislation in respect of gambling activities;
- to use only duly approved equipment;
- to allow ANACOM to verify equipment, granting ANACOM access to their premises and to any documentation, as requested; and to provide information intended for statistical purposes, on the terms, timescales and frequency required by ANACOM.
What are the dialling codes and the rules governing use of audiotext services?
ANACOM allocates providers of audiotext services different access codes according to the nature and content of the services provided, according to the provider's own detailed description. This makes it possible for users to immediately identify the type of service being offered and means that users will not be misled.
ANACOM has defined 5 access codes for audiotext services, corresponding to the following activities:
- 601 - audiotext services in general (all services without specific access, including chat lines);
- 607 - televoting services;
- 608 - sales services (sales, marketing, non-charity fundraising, recording and dissemination of commercial messages, among others);
- 646 - contests and competitions (including disclosure of results);
- 648 - erotic services (all services of an erotic or sexual nature).
The existence of a specific access code for services declared as having erotic or sexual content is a stipulation under the law.
Providers of audiotext services have an obligation to respect the conditions and limitations inherent to the respective access code. At the same time, these providers are bound to ensure that on accessing the service, the user is provided with information, in the form of an audio message, explaining the nature of the service, and where applicable, that the service is directed at adults. This message, which can take the form of an audio recording, has a fixed duration of 10 seconds (a period which also covers information about the price to be charged); the price charged while the message is being played will correspond to the price of the supporting telecommunications service (not the Audiotext service in question).
Who controls audiotext service providers in terms of the correspondence between the activity developed and the access code that has been assigned?
ANACOM is responsible for enforcing compliance of services provided with the allocated access codes, as well as compliance with prevailing legal rules as regards the conditions governing the provision of audiotext services.
Oversight of the provision of audiotext services is also provided by entities that, according to the matter in question, have powers and responsibilities under the application of the Código da Publicidade (Advertising Code) and the Código do Direito de Autor e Direitos Conexos (Copyright and Related Rights) and under legislation applicable to consumer and personal data protection.
What rules apply to pricing?
Providers of audiotext services have the right to freely determine the prices of their services.
However, depending on the type of service, information on the price of audiotext services shall provide indication of:
- the price per minute;
- the price for each period of 15 seconds - only where services have a maximum duration of one minute and provided it is guaranteed, by the provider's equipment, that the call will be terminated after one minute;
- the price per call - for services with a flat price per call, regardless of duration.
At the same time, providers of Audiotext services are bound to ensure that on accessing the service, the user is provided with information on pricing, in the form of a 10 second audio message. The price charged while this message is being played will correspond to the supporting telecommunications service. This message is the same message as used to inform users about the nature of the service and, if applicable, the fact that the service is directed at adults.
In addition, services shall provide an audible signal to mark every minute of communication.
What happens in cases where the rules are not followed?
In the event that the allocated access code is used inappropriately, or if the required audio message with information about the price and nature of the service is not being played, ANACOM will suspend use of the access code allocated to the service provider, indicating the measures that the provider needs to take to remedy the situation. For this purpose, providers are given a period not exceeding 10 days, in which to make the required corrections to their services.
In the event that providers fail to implement the required measures within the stipulated deadline, ANACOM will revoke its allocation of the access code to the service provider, and where applicable, cancel the provider's registration. Additionally, the provider in question will be prohibited from registering and from receiving allocation of new access codes.
Revocation of an access code's allocation or suspension of its use by the service provider, as well as cancellation of the provider's registration, may be publicised by ANACOM and notified to the provider of supporting services.
Have there been cases where ANACOM has found that rules are not being followed?
Although supported over the telephone service (fixed and mobile), audiotext services may be advertised on the Internet. It is on the Internet, which has been a factor in the dissemination of these services, that some situations of non-compliance with applicable legislation have been detected: it was found that several audiotext operators were advertising on the Internet and making access to their services subject to the prior completion of an automatic download, which caused users to access audiotext services without realizing. Such was the case of the company, which operated, through the website of ''Portugal Móvel'' (among others). The company had its registration revoked.
However, there are other companies which, while not having their registrations cancelled, were made subject to temporary sanctions imposed by ANACOM after regular inspections also uncovered unlawful conduct. Such sanctions included suspension or prohibition of the use of their registrations for limited periods.
Who bills and charges for these services?
The sums due for the provision of audiotext services may be billed and collected, either by the providers of the audiotext services in question or by the provider of the supporting telecommunications services. In the latter case, where the provider of the supporting telecommunications services is responsible for the billing of services, the sums in question must be properly ring-fenced.
The choice between these solutions is not, however, the audiotext customer's. Instead, it depends on the type of contract agreed between the two types of providers - the provider of audiotext services and the provider of the supporting service.
Does non-payment of the billed amount for audiotext services imply suspension of the support service?
In the event of non-payment by the customer, suspension of a telephone service provided to the public shall be limited to the service to which the non-payment relates. Therefore, provided that a complaint has been properly lodged with the provider of the supporting service in good time and provided that payment has been made in respect of the telephone service, provision of the telephone service may not be suspended as a result of a non-payment in respect of audiotext services, even if included in the same bill. As such, the subscriber is entitled to pay and settle only a part of the total amount of the bill.
Nevertheless, this procedure does not prevent providers of supporting services from pursuing outstanding payments due for the provision of audiotext services via judicial or extrajudicial means, and as a result, users should formulate an appropriate defence.
What are, in summary, the rights of users relating to the use or non-use of audiotext services?
1. The existence of specific access codes, directly associated with clearly identifiable activities, which means that users are making a conscious choice.
2. The mandatory audio message, which must be provided at the time of the user's access to the service, indicating the service's nature and, if applicable, that it is directed at adults.
3. The oversight to which provided services are subject, ensuring that they are in accordance with the access codes allocated for their provision, as well as the penalties to discourage unlawful practices, which are applied in the event of non-compliance.
4. Even while providers may set prices freely, clear principles apply as regards the way in which pricing is presented, including the obligation to inform the user of the respective conditions, by means of the same mandatory audio message.
5. Non-payment in respect of the use of audiotext services does not entail suspension of the supporting telephone support.
6. Providers of services which support the provision of audiotext services must ensure that access to audiotext services is barred by default, without charge, these services can only be activated, in full or selectively, if the user requests access in writing. As an exception, this rule does not apply to televoting audiotext services (code 607), to which access is granted automatically.