Re­funds for 10,000 with mys­tery phone charges

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Fame & Fortune - Sam Mead­ows

More than 10,000 con­sumers are in line for re­funds from firms that mis­led them into ac­cept­ing charges on their phone bills. The Phone-paid Ser­vices Author­ity (PSA), a tele­coms reg­u­la­tor, has handed out fines to­talling £2m to three com­pa­nies over the past week – open­ing the way for cus­tomers to ap­ply for re­im­burse­ment.

In the big­gest case, a fine of more than £1m was given to Xplo­sion, which tricked cus­tomers into sign­ing up to weekly charges of £4.50 for quizzes, com­pe­ti­tions and videos.

The com­pany’s web­sites used a tac­tic known as “click-jack­ing”. Vic­tims un­wit­tingly signed up to sub­scrip­tion ser­vices by click­ing links on hard-to-spot pop-up ad­verts on web­sites in­clud­ing quiz site Quizm8 and porno­graphic web­sites such as Xvid­land. The PSA re­ceived 252 com­plaints. Xplo­sion was fined and banned from op­er­at­ing phone-paid ser­vices for five years.

One cus­tomer of Quizm8 told the reg­u­la­tor: “I have no idea how or why my num­ber be­came as­so­ci­ated. I saw no pro­mo­tion for the ser­vice and did not sign up for it.” He said he had not been aware of charges un­til his bank re­jected the pay­ment of his phone bill. “I in­curred bank charges as a re­sult,” he added.

In an­other case a fine of £700,000 was handed to Tobaji, which op­er­ated a web­site that of­fered con­tact num­bers for com­pa­nies such as Asos and Vi­tal­ity. Users would be charged for the calls and the web­site failed to make clear when there were free, or low-cost, al­ter­na­tives avail­able. The com­pany made £661,000 in the course of a year.

The third com­pany, Pow­er­tel, was fined £200,000 for mis­lead­ing peo­ple into over­pay­ing for short phone calls. It had placed voice mes­sages on “hun­dreds of thou­sands” of outof-use phone num­bers, giv­ing the num­ber for a direc­tory ser­vice.

These num­bers cost be­tween £2 and £6.98 a minute. One caller told the PSA he re­alised his mis­take im­me­di­ately and hung up, but was charged £7.05 for a 22-sec­ond call.

Cus­tomers of all three com­pa­nies can now claim re­funds.

A spokesman for the PSA said: “En­force­ment is a vi­tally im­por­tant part of what we do. Where there is ev­i­dence of se­ri­ous mal­prac­tice we have the power to bar ser­vices and providers from the mar­ket, or­der re­funds and is­sue sub­stan­tial fines. These fines re­flect the se­ri­ous­ness of the breaches in ques­tion. In each case the PSA tri­bunal found that the ser­vice providers had bro­ken the rules, re­sult­ing in con­sumer harm.”

The PSA said con­sumers should be cau­tious about what they clicked on to avoid fol­low­ing links that could lead to a charge and to make sure they un­der­stood the full cost of a ser­vice be­fore sign­ing up.

It ad­vised peo­ple to be wary of cus­tomer ser­vice num­bers that be­gan with 087 or 09. The le­git­i­mate num­ber may not be the first to ap­pear on search en­gines. Con­sumers should check their phone bill to iden­tify any un­ex­pected or un­recog­nised charges.

Quiz play­ers were tricked into high bills

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.