Enabling consumer spend control and Rule 2.3.6 explained
08 March 2016, John O'Reilly, Industry Services Executive
PhonepayPlus is currently consulting on new and refreshed Guidance. This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring some of the topics open for discussion.
Some rules of our Code need no introduction, either because the principle behind them is obvious or because previous investigations and Tribunal decisions have highlighted examples of non-compliance. Others are less obvious and Rule 2.3.6 probably falls into that category.
Rule 2.3.6 of the Code of Practice requires providers to take reasonable and prompt steps to identify examples of excessive use, and to inform the user of that usage. Industry members have suggested that they feel there is some uncertainty around this Code provision and how they may satisfy the requirement in practice. By creating a new piece of Guidance, we hope to add some clarity in this area.
What is ‘excessive use’?
‘Excessive use’ can be a subjective term, but we consider it to cover incidents of high usage or sustained repetitive use which results in a consumer spend level which is comparatively greater than average. This usage may result in unexpected, excessively high charges applied to a user’s account.
Why does it matter?
In some cases, the consumer may be entirely in control of their spend level and satisfied with it, but occasionally they may not. Some examples of irregular usage can result in distress, financial detriment and/or dissatisfaction for the consumer; or even indicate a potentially problematic dependence on the service or services. These are the situations which the relevant Code provision seeks to avoid, and which the new guidance is intended to assist providers in managing.
What does the new Guidance say?
The new Guidance proposes examples of processes which providers can implement to mitigate the risks associated with excessive use. These processes also include proposed ways of dealing with consumers who have incurred an excessively high, or unexpected charge on their bill.
For example, PRS providers can ensure that their systems highlight irregular spending patterns. This serves as a notification to contact the user and inform them of their spend level. By including spend reminders within the service, providers are able to offer consumers additional methods to remain in control of their spending and avoid potentially problematic bills. Offering users a record of their deposit/transaction history can assist in this area. Such a method may be appropriate in relation to in-app purchases, for example, where the user has a long-term gaming account with the provider or specific service.
We want to hear from you
We really want your feedback on this new Guidance - where have we got it right, and where could it be improved? The list of measures for enabling consumer spend control is not exhaustive. We welcome your proposals and innovative means of achieving the Code outcome and meeting the spirit of Rule 2.3.6.
To view this and all other proposed guidance, and to respond to the consultation, please
head to the relevant pages our website.