Between 9 July 2014 and 20 March 2015, PhonepayPlus received 184 complaints from consumers in relation to a call routing subscription service (the “Service”) operated by the Level 2 provider, Plus Telecom Ltd (the “Level 2 provider”). The Service enables consumers to call 08 numbers by calling an 0300 number first and accordingly the call costs would be included within consumers’ inclusive call minutes. The Service operated under the brand name “08 Buster” on the premium rate shortcodes 80371 and 80182. Consumers were given free access to the Service for the first seven days and were then charged £1.50 per week. The Service commenced operation on 1 June 2014 and it continues to operate, although promotion of the Service was suspended in December 2014.
The Service was promoted by sending promotional SMS messages to consumers. Consumers subscribed to the Service by sending a mobile originating SMS message to one of the premium rate shortcodes. In response, consumers received a SMS message containing the 0300 number that a consumer could call to access the 08 number they wished to contact.
Complainants stated that they had received unsolicited marketing messages and/or they believed the messages they had received had originated from their Network operator and they would not be charged for the Service.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the "Code"):
• Rule 2.3.2 - Misleading
• Rule 2.4.2 - Consent to market
The Tribunal upheld both breaches of the Code. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was within the range of Band 2 (£500,000-£999,999). The Tribunal considered the case to be significant and imposed a formal reprimand, a fine of £40,000, a requirement that the Level 2 provider remedy the breaches of rule 2.3.2 and 2.4.2 of the Code, before recommencing promotion of the Service and produce evidence to the satisfaction of PhonepayPlus within 14 days from the date of the first promotion, 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.
Administrative charge recommendation: 100%