HomeFinancial/RegulationNorway clamps down on operators’ failure to protect the vulnerable

    Norway clamps down on operators’ failure to protect the vulnerable


    Regulator found only two of the country’s service providers correctly handle anonymised numbers when users switch provider

    Norway’s National Communications Authority (Nkom) carried out a notified inspection of how seven mobile operators handle anonymised subscriber numbers. Only two did so correctly, Telenor and NextGenTel

    Anonymous phone numbers are designed to protect people in difficult circumstances, such as those at risk of violence or harassment. Their numbers are not shown on the recipient’s screen when they make phone calls.

    Serious violations

    Kamilla Sharma, Department Director for Market and Services at Nkom (pictured), commented, “It is…very worrying that the audit revealed serious violations of the regulations. It can pose a danger to life and health, which is also why we have asked the mobile operators who do not follow the law to clean up [their act] quickly.”

    Sharma also said, “We are surprised that the discrepancies are so extensive, and we encourage all those who have a secret number to check with their mobile company whether the service they have received has been handled correctly.”

    The inspection

    Nkom sent a letter on 20 October 2023 to all companies that offer telephony in the private market giving notice of the upcoming inspection and and the criteria against which they would be measured. The criteria to be inspected covered about 95% of those who have purchased the anonymous number service in Norway.

    For the inspection, the regulator set up subscriptions with anonymous numbers then transferred the subscriptions to another service provider. In all cases the number should have remained anonymous after the switch.

    The inspectorate uncovered breaches of the requirements for hidden number display and forwarding. Discrepancies were found both with the mobile companies that are passing the subscription to a new provider and those taking on the subscription.

    Breaking the law

    After the test, the regulator found that operators Fjordkraft, Telia, Happybytes, Iplink and Primafon did not perform as they are obliged to by law.

    The mobile companies have been given a short deadline to correct faulty processes and at document how the processes are being tightened.

    Service providers that were not part of the inspection will be asked to document the processes for following regulations for the service.

    Nkom said the supervisory report and its conclusions are preliminary and may be disputed by the mobile companies. The regulator chose to publish the information out of concern for those who  are supposed to have the protection of the “secret number” service, but do not.