The Information and Communication Technologies Authority ("ICTA") rendered a decision ("Decision") on Value Added Telecommunication Services provided through 888/989 numbers on January 3,2019.

The Decision states that ICTA receives numerous consumer complaints indicating that consumers receive messages directing them to 888/989 numbers for obtaining bank loans or retrieving monetary gift they allegedly won. According to the complaints, upon calling the relevant numbers, consumers are charged with high telephone bills despite not having received what has been promised to them in the messages.

According to news sources[1], swindlers use schemes similar to the following to conduct fraudulent activities: Consumer receives a phone call indicating that they are outside of the door and they have a package to deliver. At that moment, the phone conversation is interrupted. When the consumer calls the phone number, the number redirects to a number starting with "0888" and the consumer is kept waiting on the line for a number of minutes. Since 888/989 numbers are part of the Value Added Telecommunication Services, their cost per minute is significantly higher in comparison with regular services, namely TRY 25 per seven (7) seconds. Consequently, consumers receive a high telephone bill.

Due to rising consumer complaints related to fraudulent calls and messages in Turkey, ICTA rendered the Decision with the aim to prevent such fraudulent activities.

ICTA ordered telecommunication service providers to obtain consumers' consent as to their telephone lines being open to make calls towards 888/989 numbers within two (2) months starting from the date of notification of the Decision, if the consumers have not already provided their consent through call centers, online centers, SMS or otherwise, in writing.

The Decision further indicates that if telephone lines for which consent has not been obtained in the given period, telecommunication service providers should disable those lines' capacity to call 888/989 numbers.

In terms of new phone service subscribers, their telephone lines will be deemed to be closed to make calls towards 888/989 numbers by default. These telephone lines will only be able to call the relevant number after telecommunication service providers obtain the subscribers' consents through call centers, online centers, SMS or written application. Telecommunication service providers are also obliged to enable consumers to close their lines to outgoing calls in terms of 888/989 numbers through the use of the foregoing methods.

Pursuant to the Decision, consumers whose phones are disabled will be provided with a free of charge announcement if they attempt to call the 888/989 numbers, indicating that their lines are disabled for their attempted call. The announcement will also inform the consumers about the ways in which they can enable their telephone lines for outgoing calls towards 888/989.

While the Decision has been welcomed by many for its consumer protection aspect, the ICTA has imposed a new set of obligations on telecommunication service providers requiring actions to be taken.

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in June 2019. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here

[1] See Last accessed on May 3, 2019)

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