Between 9 February 2015 and 8 March 2016, the Executive received 243 complaints concerning a glamour video subscription service, charged at £3 per week, under the brand name Girly Vidz (formerly ‘My UK Babes’), operated on dedicated shortcodes 78311 and 86211, and shared shortcodes 82999 and 81321 (the “Service”).
The Level 2 provider for the Service was Virtual Rainbow Limited(the “Level 2 provider”). The Level 2 provider had been registered with PhonepayPlus since 14 January 2015. The Level 1 provider forService shortcode 78311 and shortcode 81321 was Zamano Solutions Limited. The Level 1 provider for Service shortcodes 82999 and shortcode 86211 was Veoo Ltd.
Complainants variously alleged that the Service charges were unsolicited. In addition, after analysing complainant message logs, the Executive noted that there was a high failure rate of chargeable messages following the purported consumer opt-ins, and the delivery status of Service messages was unclear.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (the "Code"):
- Paragraph 4.2.4 – Provision of false information to PhonepayPlus
- Rule 2.3.3 – Consent to charge
- Paragraph 3.4.1 – Failure of a provider to register with PhonepayPlus
The Tribunal upheld the three breaches of the Code raised. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was in Band 2 (£500,000 to £999,999). The Tribunal considered the case to be very serious and imposed a formal reprimand, a fine of £250,000, and a requirement that the Level 2 provider remedy the breach by ensuring that it has robust verification of each consumer’s consent to be charged before making any further charge to the consumer, including for existing subscribers to the Service. 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%