Between 7 November and 14 May 2013, PhonepayPlus received 53 complaints from members of the public regarding an adult virtual chat service which operated under the brand names "Flirt UK", "the Chat Club" and "Naughty Flirting" and was operated by the Level 2 provider Zooborang Ltd (“the Service”). The Level 2 provider was Velti DR Limited.
The Service operated on the premium rate shortcode 83737 and cost £1.50 per message received from the operator and 25 pence per message sent by the consumer. The terms and conditions indicated that a consumer could receive up to five messages for every message s/he sent.
The Service was promoted online using banners.
The majority of the complainants stated that the messages received were unsolicited. Consumers who accepted that they had subscribed to the Service stated that they were under the impression that the Service was free.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the “Code”).
- Rule 2.3.12(c) – Free spend reminder messages
- Rule 2.3.11 – Stop
Rule 2.3.8 – Age verification
Rule 3.9.2 – Appropriate use of number ranges
Rule 3.4.12(a) – Registration of services
The Tribunal upheld all the breaches . The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was within the range of Band 3 (£100,000- £250,000). The Tribunal considered the case to be very serious and imposed a formal reprimand, a fine of £60,000, a requirement that access is barred to the Service until compliance advice has been implemented to the satisfaction of PhonepayPlus and a requirement that the Level 2 provider must refund all consumers who claim a refund, for the full amount spent by them on the Service, within 28 days of their claim, save where there is good cause to believe that such claims are not valid, and provide evidence to PhonepayPlus that such refunds have been made.