We are the UK regulator for content, goods and services charged to a phone bill.

Why have I been charged?

Phone-paid services is the name given to all content, goods, or services charged to a phone bill. In law they are referred to as premium rate services. Phone payment is a popular and easy way of paying for a range of services, such as music subscriptions, games, donations to charity and voting on TV talent shows. This means that when you call or send texts to premium numbers, make in-app purchases or play games and quizzes on your phone, you can add the costs to your phone bill or pay-as-you-go credit. 

Big brands like Apple, Google, Spotify, ITV, Capital FM and Comic Relief all offer services you can pay for through your phone bill. Phone payment can be a convenient way to pay for things you want and is currently used by 20 million people in the UK alone, but if you aren't aware that you've made a phone payment, it can be confusing. 
There are many different types of phone-paid services and the PSA’s rules require that the cost of the service, and how the service works, are clear. 

Here's a quick guide to what phone-paid services are and how they work:

When you search the internet for the helpline numbers of well-known companies and public organisations, you might end up calling them via a third-party company on a 09, 087 or 084 number. We call these Information, Connection and Signposting Services (ICSS). These services can make it quick and easy for you to reach the organisation you need but can be more expensive than calling the company you want directly.

All ICSS services must clearly state the cost, explain what their service does, and make it clear that they are a third party, not the company you might have been looking for.

You can find more information about ICSS here: Call connection services: What are they and how to spot them

Many charities now accept donations by text. This is a great way to give money to good causes. Charities use short codes beginning 70xxx.You can also sign up to donate monthly. If you do this, you also have the option to skip donations by texting the word SKIP to the charity’s short code. You can find this in the text messages you would have received from the charity.

These can include chat lines, horoscope services, information about crosswords or competitions, weather forecasting, and a range of other information or advice. These services can be charged to your phone bill.  

If you are looking for a telephone number, you can call a number starting 118 for Directory Enquiries. They will provide you with the number you’re looking for and other information. These calls cost a lot more than normal phone calls.

Some Directory Enquiries services will give you the option to be connected directly to the number you wanted. You are likely to be charged for this on top of the cost of the initial call.

These can include music streaming services, videos, films and television programmes. Examples include Spotify and Apple Music. When these are charged to a phone-bill, they are phone-paid services. Some of these are charged as a subscription.. Find out more about subscription services.

There are now a lot of online and mobile gambling services. These can only be used by people over 18, and the cost and type of service must be made clear. If the gambling service involves charges to a phone bill, this is covered by PSA rules. There are also extra rules for gambling services that are set by the Gambling Commission.

Mobile games are a very popular service type. Some games may include in-app purchases, where you can choose to pay for extra content within the game with real money. These charges can be added to your phone bill. Service providers must make it clear that there is a cost. Sometimes access to games is charged on a subscription basis.

Some apps and websites now offer lifestyle services, such as fitness and exercise information, recipes, diet and health tips. These can also be charged to your phone bill, sometimes on a subscription basis.

You may have seen adverts offering you the chance to win prizes online. Sometimes you need to pay to enter, and that cost can be charged to your phone bill. These can be charged as a subscription.

Many popular TV programmes give you the option to vote for your favourite contestant, enter a competition, or get involved in some other way by texting or calling in. The numbers to call or text, and details about entering, are usually provided during the show. Examples of programmes that do this include Strictly Come Dancing, Love Island and Britain’s Got Talent. When you vote or enter the competition using your phone, you will receive charges on your phone bill.

Adult entertainment and chat services for over-18s only, can also be charged to your phone bill. These can include chat lines and dating apps.

Who is actually charging me?
Much like a purchase using your debit card, there can be multiple parties involved in making a phone-paid purchase happen. But from a consumer point of view, there are two important ones:

  1. the service provider, this is the company that is actually providing you the service or content that you want, for example a charity donation or a music subscription
  2. your mobile or fixed line network who is allowing the charge to be added to your bill or taken from your credit on behalf on the service provider. 

While mobile networks charge you on behalf of the service provider, the mobile network is not responsible for managing your service. So if you want to discuss a service you’ve been charged for you need to contact the service provider directly.

If you don’t know who charged you or how to contact the service provider, then you can ask your mobile network, they are able to help you. 

If after speaking to your service provider you are still unsatisfied with the outcome, do speak to your mobile provider as they might be able to help.

How do I know I’ve been charged for a phone-paid service?
Try to recall if you might have used any of the services listed above recently. The best way to check is on your phone bill where you’ll find all your charges listed. 

Your phone bill will not always list the name of the service provider; sometimes you will see a number instead. You can enter that number into our Service checker to find out which service provider has charged you and how to contact them about the charge.

What to look for on your bill:

  • mobile text short codes, which are usually 5 or 6 digits long and start with a 5, 6, 7 or 8. You may have received text messages from a number like this; these messages give you information about the service, such as the contact details of the service provider.
  • charges might be listed as Charge-to-mobile, Operator Billing, Direct Carrier Billing or Google Play on your bill. These are just payment mechanisms, they are not names of the service provider. To find out who charged you either use our Service checker or ask your mobile network provider.
  • fixed line numbers, such as 118 numbers used for directory enquiries. 
    09, 087 and 084 numbers are often used for customer helplines, information and chat lines, and competitions or TV voting. 

If you’re still not clear whether you’ve been charged for a phone-paid service or not, it’s best to either use our Service checker or ask your mobile network provider directly.

Our rules make it very clear that you should not be charged for any phone-paid service without your consent. Our Code of Practice requires that the cost of the service, and how the service works, are clear. If you believe you have been charged for a phone-paid service unknowingly and are entitled to a refund, talk to the service provider who charged you in the first instance. 

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