Oral Hearing Tribunal decision: Transact Group (Holdings) Ltd

23 July 2010

An Oral Hearing Tribunal considered on 2 and 3 June 2010 a case about unsolicited text messages received by consumers between January and October 2009. The case was originally adjudicated on 29 October 2009.

Consumers received SMS or WAP-push messages containing a link for virtual text chat. A number of consumers complained to PhonepayPlus that they have never opted-in to receive these messages and were being charged for receipt of them.

The Oral Hearing Tribunal found that the services operating on four shortcodes cited in the case breached the Code of Practice in several ways. The Oral Hearing Tribunal found that: the promotion of these services was unlawful; that the promotional material was misleading; that the services took unfair advantage of circumstances that made consumers vulnerable; that the identity of the service provider was not clearly stated; that no £10 spend reminders were sent to users of virtual chat services as required by the Code of Practice; that subscription initiation messages containing information required by the Code of Practice were not sent to consumers; and that suitable subscription reminders were not sent to users. Transact Group (Holdings) Ltd was formally reprimanded and fined £167,959. Transact Group (Holdings) Ltd were also prohibited for six months from being involved in or contracted for any premium rate text chat services (with or without a dating element), ordered to seek compliance advice and barred from operating any premium rate service on the four shortcodes identified in the case, this bar being suspended for three months pending compliance advice sought and acted on by the company to the satisfaction of the PhonepayPlus Executive.

Full details of the Oral Hearing adjudication can be found on the PhonepayPlus adjudications database