Monday 18 March 2019

Westport residents' anger over calls to adult chatline

Action: Minister Michael Ring wants calls stopped
Action: Minister Michael Ring wants calls stopped
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

A Fine Gael minister has been forced to contact gardai and broadcasting regulatory authorities on behalf of angry constituents who are being bombarded with late-night telephone calls from adult chatline callers.

Regional Development Minister Michael Ring has demanded answers after households in his constituency complained of being inundated with calls from users of adult chatlines advertised on British television channels.

The premium rate telephone numbers used by chatline operators are similar to local landlines of residents in Westport, Mayo.

When Irish users of the UK based services ring the numbers without adding the international dial code they are put through to family homes in Westport.

The calls are causing huge distress for households as people are receiving several calls a day, mostly at night, from men who believe they are calling X-rated phone services.

Other residents are receiving calls from people calling Sky television helplines which have similar numbers to landlines in Westport.

Some of those affected have contacted Mr Ring's office as they have been unable to find a solution to the problem.

The minister said his constituents are "aggravated and annoyed" by the volume of calls they are receiving and insist they should not have to change their telephone numbers.

"They are getting these calls in the middle of night. One of those people has an elderly mother and family members all over the world and there could be a call at any time that they would have to take," Mr Ring told the Sunday Independent.

Mr Ring wrote to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Commission of Communications Regulation (Comreg) asking them to intervene and force the operators of the adult phone services to change the numbers. Gardai were also asked to look at the issue which is causing huge distress to residents in Westport, Mayo. The minister said gardai "did everything they could" but are limited in their powers in this area.

Mr Ring also wrote to Communications Minister Denis Naughten's office seeking assistance but up to this weekend had not received a response.

"The minister's office didn't have the manners to answer me. Irish citizens have to be protected by Irish government," he said.

BAI chief executive Michael O'Keeffe wrote directly to the minister about one constituent whose landlines was similar to a phone number advertised by the Babe Station channel on Sky TV.

Mr O'Keeffe said the BAI has no statutory responsibility over telephone numbers as it is under the remit of Comreg.

However, he said the BAI contacted Babe Station on behalf of the constituent and spoke to a representative about the issue.

"It is unfortunate that this issue is still continuing. However, the BAI is not in a position to address the problem as it is not within our remit and he was advised at all times we were assisting him as a matter of courtesy," Mr O'Keeffe said.

Mr Ring said he has not received a satisfactory response from Comreg.

However, he has spoken to the Phone-Paid Services Authority in the UK, which is examining the issue, and he expects a response soon.

Sunday Independent

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