Phonepayplus announces 62% decrease in complaints about mobile phone-paid services

17 November 2009

PhonepayPlus announces 62% decrease in complaints, on the same day that the EU publishes an update on the success of its 2008 Europe-wide clampdown on misleading websites.

PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, today announced 62% decrease in complaints about mobile phone-paid services (July 2008 – 1,981 vs. October 2009 – 746).

This is on the same day that the EU published an update on the success of its 2008 Europe-wide clampdown on misleading websites offering mobile phone services, such as ringtones and wallpapers.

The EU’s update follows on from last year’s ‘sweep’, announced in July 2008, where the EU selected a number of problem websites to undergo further investigation. The issues raised by the EU included unclear pricing information, lack of contact information, hidden terms and conditions, and the word ‘free’ being is used to mislead consumers into a long-term contracts.

Of the 43 UK websites checked, 39 were found to need further investigation, and five were potential cross-border cases, i.e. when the business, consumer and enforcement agency are not all based in the UK.

Working with the Office of Fair Trading – the statutory UK cross-border authority – PhonepayPlus examined the websites highlighted in the ‘sweep’. Many of the websites that appeared suspect transpired to be for services that were no longer in operation and hadn’t been updated in line with the current regulations. The remaining sites were dealt with through PhonepayPlus’ enforcement powers, including informal action with providers and formal PhonepayPlus adjudications; a few investigations are also still ongoing.

In addition, PhonepayPlus introduced new rules for mobile phone-paid services in January 2009. These measures aim to protect the public from a range of practices in the mobile premium content market which were causing complaints and undermining consumers' trust. The new rules include:

  • Active confirmation : any consumer joining a subscription service which costs more than £4.50 per week must first receive a free confirmation text message detailing the cost and conditions of the service. The consumer cannot be charged until they have confirmed their subscription by replying to that text.
  • Price transparency : price information must be clearly displayed – as prominent as any other aspect of the promotion. Promotional material must not suggest any premium rate product or download is ‘free'.
  • STOP : providers offering subscription services or sending promotional text messages must enable consumers to easily opt out of the service via the ‘STOP' command. Any failure of this command immediately results in the service being immediately shut down while PhonepayPlus investigates.

PhonepayPlus is confident that its strategic policy work, backed up by its enforcement powers, will continue to cut down on bad practice in this area.

To view the EU’s press release, please click here