Population: 64,100,000. Mobile Subscribers: 78,000,000 (c. 122% penetration)

    • Mobile Entertainment: YES
    • Virtual Gaming: YES
    • Adult Content: YES
    • Dating & Chat: YES
    • Streaming Services: YES
    • Charity: YES
    • Gambling: YES
    • Subscription: YES
Regulatory characteristics

The UK is regulated on a day-to-day basis by PhonepayPlus, an agency of the communications and broadcast regulator Ofcom.

There is a principles based Code of practice, currently on its 12th edition, with the 13th under development, and some 25 detailed Guidance Notes. Some Guidance Notes apply to all services, such as “Promotions and Promotional Material” and some are specific to certain types of service, such as Subscription Services and Virtual Chat.

The Code and Guidance Notes can be found here: http://code.phonepayplus.org.uk/

The Code is enforced by the powers of a semi-independent Tribunal, with the power to impose impose fines up to £250k per breach. In a typical month there are 3 fines raised at an average of £60k each. Fines are an outcome normally of consumer complaints to PhonepayPlus, and therefore successful services are more likely to come to the attention of the regulator’s attention than a small grossly non-compliant service.

Guidance Notes are fairly detailed, and in practice they make a principle-based Code into a prescriptive rule book. This at least provides some clarity and certainty.

In general the UK has quite liberal and sensible rules – adult content allowed, no double opt-in for subscription services are two examples. However, the merchant is accountable for all promotions, including those in an affiliate network. With high fine jeopardy Empello is often employed to manage the risk inherent in using affiliate networks.

Merchants are accountable for compliance, and aggregators and networks are required to perform Due Diligence, Risk Assessment and Control on the merchants and their services.

Non-regulatory differences in UK include the market structure and a unique Direct Operator Billing product – Payforit. Structurally, virtually all merchants are served via SMS aggregators. MNOs will not cotract with merchants directly. This is also partly linked to Payforit. Payforit is not strictly a payment product, but instead a scheme rule driven by the MNOs and compulsory if merchants wish to use Direct Operator Billing. The payment page is controlled by the aggregator and not the merchant.

The information above is correct at the time of publication, but seek specific advice prior to launching or running a service.