Written Answers. - Telephone Sex Lines.

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

64 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the plans, if any, she has to introduce legislation to ban or restrict the use of telephone sex lines; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15383/98]

Telecom Éireann is already empowered by statute to prohibit the transmission of objectionable messages pursuant to section 96 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983, and I am considering amending this legislation to extend its provisions to other telecommunications operators in the market.

Responsibility for the regulation of the premium rate services market in Ireland, including premium rate sex lines, rests with the regulator of premium rate services whose office comes under the aegis of the Director of Consumer Affairs. The regulator's remit extends to the supervision of the standard of premium rate telephone services as to both content and promotion.

Since 1996, Telecom Éireann has operated a PIN code system for access to premium rate sex lines. This is a subscriber system which requires those who wish to use the services to register with Telecom Éireann and access to sex line numbers is possible only with the use of a PIN number.
I understand that these controls have not, however, prevented sex line services which are provided from abroad from being accessed from this country. These services do not carry any special premium rate prefixes and do not come within the remit of the regulator of premium rate services. Where possible, Telecom Eireann bars access to these numbers as they come on stream.
The Deputy should be aware, however, that in practical terms it is very difficult to restrict access to sex line services which are provided from abroad and accessed by a normal international telephone call.