John Francis

Publication Date
3 October 2013
Case Reference
Track 2
Adjudicated Party
John Francis
Service Type
Tribunal's final assessment
Very Serious
Code 12 para 4.8.2b - Formal reprimand and/or warning
Code 12 para 4.8.2d - Fine
Code 12 para 4.8.2j - Universal refunds
Breaches raised

Between 5 November 2012 and 28 May 2013, PhonepayPlus received 46 complaints from consumers in relation to misleading promotions for jobs and rental properties which directly and indirectly led consumers to interact with various 070 numbers (the “Service”). The numbers had been allocated to the Level 2 provider John Francis by the Level 1 provider Numbers4U Limited. Calls to the numbers were charged at 50 pence per minute (plus network extras). The numbers commenced operation in September 2012 and were suspended by the Network operator and the Level 1 provider on 24 March 2013.

A number of complainants stated they had seen classified advertisements for job vacancies and rental properties. Other complainants had received an email notifying them that they had been selected to attend a job interview. The complainants were invited to telephone a 070 number directly or a mobile telephone number and upon calling the mobile number were directed to telephone a 070 number. Many consumers believed the calls to the 070 number were to a mobile number and therefore experienced bill shock. Consumers also reported being kept on hold or being asked a series of unnecessary questions in an effort to prolong the telephone call. The maximum cost incurred by a complainant was £84.51 and the average complainant spend was £33.64.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the "Code"):

  • Paragraph 3.9.2 – Appropriate use of a number range
  • Rule 2.3.2 – Misleading
  • Rule 2.3.10 – Vulnerability
  • Rule 2.2.5 – Pricing
  • Rule 2.2.1(a) – Provision of information
  • Rule 2.4.2 – Consent to market

The Tribunal upheld all the breaches of the Code. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was at the lower end of the range of Band 4 (£50,000-£100,000). The Tribunal considered the case to be very serious and issued a formal reprimand, a fine of £75,000 and a requirement that the Level 2 provider make refunds, within three months, to all consumers who have used the Service for the full amount spent, regardless of whether or not they have claimed a refund. Refunds should be directly credited to the users’ mobile accounts and the Level 2 provider must provider evidence to PhonepayPlus that the refunds have been made.