The following article has been put together to highlight the path through the ATVOD regulatory process, where difficulties can occur, and also point out that your business can indeed come out the other side. Gary from SpeedyBee (and other websites) came to our attention as someone who was having difficulties during his compliance process and wanted some feedback and help. As a regulator in charge of notification and enforcement issues, ATVOD can’t directly help businesses through compliance, only point out where they are in breach of the rules. As such, we stepped in and helped advise Gary of steps to take which had already helped others successfully meet the regulatory framework requirements.
As a small adult content producer with 4 pay-to-join websites I did not really consider my operation to be large enough to attract the attention of ATVOD until I received a letter from them on 12th March 2013; the repercussions of which are still with me now some 18 months later.
The Letter from ATVOD claimed they had received a complaint regarding the services listed, my websites and they were investigating the said services for potential breaches of ATVOD’s rules 1, 4 and 11
Rule 1: Notification of intention to provide an On-Demand Programme Service7
- A person must not provide an on-demand programme service unless, before beginning to provide it, that person has given a notification to the appropriate regulatory authority of the person’s intention to provide that service.
- A notification must be sent to the appropriate regulatory authority in such manner as the authority may require and must contain all such information as the authority may require.
- Where, on 18 March 2010, an on-demand programme service is already being provided by a person, that person’s obligation to give a notification before beginning to provide that service has effect as an obligation to give a notification before 30 April 2010 and that notification must state that the person is already providing the service (rather than that the person intends to do so)
Rule 4: Payment of required fee14
- The provider of an On-Demand Programme Service must pay to the appropriate regulatory authority such fee as that authority may require under section 368NA of the Act.
Rule 11: Harmful Material: Protection of Under-18s 21
- If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.
APN: See ATVOD guidance doc >> http://www.atvod.co.uk/uploads/files/ATVOD_Rules_and_Guidance_Ed_2.1_February_2014.pdf for more info
They enclosed various forms for me to complete in order to determine weather or not I was a provider of an ODPS (On Demand Programme Service)
I telephoned Peter Johnson of ATVOD to try and find out what I needed to do and find out if in fact I was a service provider who came under their Remit and one simple question to me “Do you provide Video Content on your Websites” to which I answered “Yes” secured my fate as this determined that I was indeed a provider of ODPS, I subsequently wrote to ATVOD listing the sites that provided this service and confirmed that I did have full editorial control.
I completed the required forms paid the appropriate fee and I became a stakeholder in ATVOD.
So I very quickly sorted out the Breaches of Rules 1 and 4 by joining and paying the appropriate fee.
I started looking at my sites and began making changes to the free areas making them less explicit in effect toning them down, I censored some of the tour pics and videos shown in the free areas and to my mind I had done enough and all was quiet on the ATVOD front, I attended one of the forum meetings and met quite a few people who offered held and advice, including Chris Ratcliff of Portland TV and Rob Banks of BritSexCash and I was present at the inaugural meeting of the APN (Adult Provider Network) so I knew there was support out there if I needed it.
I thought I was safe but all the while ATVOD Agents were pursuing me relentlessly working undercover investigating my sites and compiling a damning report.
On January 17th 2014 I received ATVOD’s Preliminary View of my service listing in detail every breach of Rule 11 there could possibly be on my websites and they gave me 10 working days to make written Representation to ATVOD before they proceed to a final determination.
So in fact 10 days to fix all the items they outlined in their 7 page preliminary view.
Help! What the F*%! Do I do now? I looked for help from the guys on the APN and WOW! what a response my initial cry for help was circulated around the Network and I received 20 plus emails from people some of who I had never met offering words of wisdom and plenty of good solid help and advice, Chris & Rob in particular took my case very seriously and their help and advice proved invaluable in getting my site fully compliant.
APN: Thanks Gary for your kind words, but we need to summarize what the exchange of emails came to. Gary asked for the facts of HOW to comply with the rule 11 issues QUICKLY, because he didn’t want to fall foul of the OFCOM sanctions that have been imposed on sites like StrictlyBroadband and PlayBoy TV. For small businesses the prospect of such huge fees is VERY worrying. For smaller providers that have not maybe kept abreast of the regulations a dossier through the door highlighting your breaches of regulations are again VERY worrying, especially when presented with what could be a lot of changes needed to comply.
As such, we gave Gary a couple of very simple pieces of advice which would help him through the process;
- Call ATVOD and get the facts. Glean as much information from them as possible. Lets be clear about this, they are NOT the gestapo. They’re normal people doing a normal 9-5 job, that’s all. They’ll help you by explaining what some of their terminology is and will help you through the process as much as they can. The second reason to call is to show them that you are willing to comply, and not hide under the bedclothes! Simply call to explain your personal situation, any issues which may make compliance longer, and together help set out a time frame for you to comply which is achievable.
- Clean up your free-areas. Very simply, eliminate all explicit content. This means no open-leg, penises, ass holes. We suggest either remaking tour pics which aren’t explicit (see PaulRaymond.xxx for example, or if that’s difficult, simply blur or obscure the area which brings you into breach (see ukxxxpass.com for example).
- Though an age-verification solution is more encompassing, get your billing provider to restrict the payment methods you can receive to Credit-card only. As these are only available to over-18’s, this has been successfully deemed by ATVOD as method that does not breach rule 11.
Now, this is the part where all hell breaks loose and despite a great deal of effort, the whole thing goes mega pear shaped, and a few more valuable life lessons learned.
I set to work going through every free to view page of every site and listing any possible infringement and passing these on to my webmaster for immediate action. (That’s right- I do not maintain my sites myself I’m a producer and have no technical expertise myself in the building and maintenance of my websites and rely totally on the skills of my webmaster). As such, as far as I was concerned the sites were squeaky clean and there was no R18 material whatsoever in the free areas of the site.
Until this point, access to the site’s various members areas was accessible through payment of a subscription by credit or debit card through one of two payment providers (CCBill or EPOCH in my case) and in order to comply with ATVOD’s requirements I followed the suggestions the APN guys offered about asking my billing providers to only accept Credit Cards.
I contacted EPOCH and they were very helpful and guided me through the process of removing the Debit Card option from my account. They were fully aware of ATVOD’s requirements and their system had been set up to comply.
Now for CCBill, not so easy! They found it very difficult to comprehend the reasons for the removal of the Debit card Option but eventually after several days of communication by email and live chat sessions they confirmed to me the Debit Card Option had been removed.
I then wrote to ATVOD on 27th January 2014 informing them of full compliance with all the points raised and assumed the matter would now be closed.
Now the S*%! Hits the Fan! On 24th March I received From ATVOD a Notice of Determination that I was in Breach of Rule 11 and an enforcement notification.
Another 10 days to put things right again! But what was wrong?
ATVOD had successfully managed to join my site using a Debit card through CCBill
I immediately contacted CCBill who assured me that Debit Card Blocking was in place but when I pushed the issue no one could help me so the only option in theshort term was to fully remove the CCBill payment gateway from all my sites, I informed CCBill of my actions and proceeded to escalate the matter higher up the food chain within CCBill.
APN: It was at this point, we helped Gary again by chasing up CCBill on his behalf to try and isolate why their ability to block Debit Cards had been bypassed/circumvented/avoided. Through escalating the issue through their tech team and keeping on top of communications, the issue got solved successfully, resulting in confirmation of such from CCBill.
I wanted to update you on the Web Validate issue. CCBill uses a database, that is provided to us by our bank, to identify bin numbers on credit and debit cards. The transaction that you brought to our attention was identified as a credit card bin. We’ve since required our bank to provide us with an updated database, and verified the bin number of this transaction and it now accurately identifies as a debit card bin.
We understand the importance of identifying debit cards from the UK, and apologize for any inconvenience this has cause. Thank you again for bringing this to our attention.
Renee Fuentes, CCBill
That was it I thought! But No!
1st May received a letter from OFCOM. Serious stuff. There’s still issues on one of my sites. They claim there is still R-18 material in the Free areas of the site and there are still Debit Card Issues but these had been dealt with as CCBill were no longer in the frame as a payment provider.
I spoke to OFCOM to try and get some guidance as to where the problem was, they pointed me in the direction of Google links which were still live despite not being visible on the website, it seemed my webmaster had just Hidden them (For want of a better word) rather than deleting them so R18 was still available from my sites through a search engine.
So say I wasn’t happy was an understatement and despite my limited knowledge I was able to disable the offending links in my server, needless to say I took great delight in terminating my webmasters employment.
I checked and double checked everything then wrote to OFCOM fingers crossed that I was now fully compliant.
APN: This is where we return to our second point of advice to Gary about cleaning up your tour areas. It’s critically important that your site is clean. Though there may have been `off-screen` issues as Gary pointed out, as we looked over the site there was still visible erect phallus (though, granted, the head had been obscured) and some thumbs still showed explicit material on some pages. Again, you needed to dig down a bit to find them, but they were still there and available to see to anyone.
Two points we can offer in light of this;
- This is serious stuff. Check, check and re-check again. you wouldn’t send out a contract without having checked over it properly, or got your solicitor to have gone through it. So why take your webmasters word for it that everything had been done? Check, check and check again!
- Don’t just look over the tour images and fix them as you see them. You’ll miss some. Go through the folder where the thumb images are on your website and fix them all, whether you see them or not. It seems like overkill, but just for example, in future you recycle an older set in the future and bring it in as a new site update. If that thumb wasn’t fixed `when you fixed the ones that were visible`, then it won’t be fixed when you re-post it. As such, you’ll be back in breach and face OFCOM sanctions.
On 12th May I received a letter from OFCOM saying they were satisfied with the steps I took and concluded that no further regulatory action was required.
So that was a big relief, now to pick up the pieces.
2 months on and my sites although still being updated regularly have suffered as a result of all the chopping and changing. But, now with a new Webmistress in full control they are coming back together and looking a lot more clean, tidy and professional.
The CCBill issue was eventually resolved, but the problems discovered on my sites were prevalent on other websites too which could have caused problems and non-compliance issues for their owners but once resolved all Debit Cards are now blocked with CCBill.
I’m happy to say that the CCBill payment Gateways are now re-installed on all my sites and functioning as they should blocking all Debit cards.
APN: We’d like to thank Gary Beaumont for taking time to collate his compliance experiences with dirtydoctorsvideos.com, hotmaturetrisha.com, trishasfriends.com and auntietrisha.com, and also for CCBill for the time they put in fixing things for us.
If anyone has any questions about compliance issues, or would like to chat to us about anything related to ATVOD, compliance or other adult business, then feel free to use the contact form here