Telco watchdog Oftel has told text message scammers they will be disconnected.

After warning customers to beware of premium rate text message scams back in July 2001, telco watchdog Oftel has now gone one step further, issuing a harsh warning to senders that they will be disconnected.

Companies running premium rate scams trick mobile phone users into replying to SMS messages, usually in the form of competition questions, and then charge them at a premium rate.

But under a new power awarded by the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Industry Services (Icstis), Oftel will now be able to disconnect the operator once it ignores a request to terminate the service.

"There have been cases of competition lines where callers run up high bills but never receive their prizes," said David Edmond, director general of telecommunications at Oftel. "These new tough powers will enable Oftel to support Icstis' work to stamp out these blatant abuses quickly and protect consumers."

The new powers apply to premium-rate services on 090-prefixed phone numbers from fixed and mobile phones as well as premium rate text messages.