Between 15 December 2014 and 17 July 2015, PhonepayPlus received 111 complaints from consumers in relation to the Recorded Football Stars entertainment service (the “Service”) operated by Technology and Communications Limited (the “Level 2 provider”) on the following premium rate numbers (“PRN(s)”): 0913660 (010-011, 109, 178-179, 262, 276, 338, 349 and 403); 09136661 (000, 002-009) and 09136662 (000-009). The Network operator was Telecom 2 Limited. Consumers engaging with the Service dialled one of the fixed line 09 premium rate numbers to listen to a recording of football player quotes at a cost of £1.53 per minute. According to the Level 2 provider the Service was promoted on banner advertisements on both digital desktop and mobile applications (“Apps”) via a third party advertiser. Consumers engaged with the Service by clicking on the banner advertisements which generated a call from the consumers’ handsets.
The Service was registered with PhonepayPlus on 1 December 2014 and began operation on 15 December 2014. The Level 2 provider temporarily ceased promoting the Service on 22 July 2015 until the investigation was concluded. Complainants stated that the PRN was automatically dialled from their handset after they inadvertently clicked on an in-app banner promoting the Service. The Executive noted that the most commonly mentioned App among complainants was the popular dating app, Grindr.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the “Code”):
- Rule 2.3.1 – Fair and Equitable Treatment
- Rule 2.2.5 – Pricing Prominence
- Rule 2.2.1 – Provision of information likely to influence the decision to purchase
The Tribunal upheld all of the breaches of the Code raised. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was in the range of Band 3 (£250,000 - £499,999). The Tribunal considered the case to be serious and imposed a formal reprimand, a fine of £60,000, and a requirement that the Level 2 provider submits all Service promotional material that is intended for publication to PhonepayPlus for compliance advice for a period of one month from the date of this decision. Such advice is to be sought within two weeks of the date of publication of this decision and thereafter implemented by the Level 2 provider within two weeks of such advice being provided (subject to any extension of time agreed with PhonepayPlus) to the satisfaction of PhonepayPlus, The Tribunal also imposed 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%