18 November 2008

Industry regulator joins forces with Ministry of Sound, the Peter Jones Foundation and Make Your Mark to launch PhoneBrain - an innovative new schools programme.

Mobile ringtones and budding business plans will help GCSE students download their way to GCSE success as PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, launches a youth education initiative to help teach young people, aged 13-18, about how to use phone-paid services safely.

Working with Ministry of Sound, the Peter Jones Foundation and the Government-sponsored enterprise body Make Your Mark, PhonepayPlus has designed PhoneBrain - a unique curriculum-based ICT and Enterprise schools programme. Available to all secondary schools and youth/education centres across the UK, PhoneBrain uses the skills and techniques GCSE students are required to learn to develop an animated mobile ringtone, create their own phone-paid service business plan, or both!

By combining real educational needs while tapping into young people's passions, the youth education programme is designed to help teachers inspire students to learn. They will explain the threats and opportunities afforded by the £1bn market and how they can protect themselves and their friends and family from falling foul of misleading text promotions, or overcomplicated terms and conditions.

Mobile phones are music to students' ears

For ICT enthusiasts, schools will be able to download Adobe software, Ministry of Sound content and full curriculum-friendly lesson plans via the project website: This will enable teens across the UK to take part in the innovative programme.

Learning about phone-paid services, while at the same time developing the skills they learn throughout their ICT lessons, students will create and be able to download their very own animated ringtone using audio-visual content provided by Ministry of Sound artists.

Calling all business brains
Young entrepreneurs will also be given the chance to enter their own ‘Dragons' Den' with the help of full Enterprise lesson plans, a business plan template and inspirational real-life cases studies - all available at

Teens are challenged to come up with their own phone-paid service idea - the kind of thing they and their friends would love to use but is not currently available - and create an accompanying business plan.

These business plans can then be entered into a nationwide competition for the chance to pitch to Peter Jones from Dragons' Den - and get involved with the new National Enterprise Academy.

Dominic Evans, Assistant Head of Sixth Form at Business Academy in Bexley has been trialing the lessons and said: "The schools programme is incredibly popular with students and staff at the school. The kids are really engaged and love using the technology to create their own personal ringtones. We have to drag them away when the bell rings!

"The lesson plans fit in to the curriculum really well and we have seen a real enthusiasm not only for the ICT lessons but the additional work at home as well. I think we have a class of budding ‘dragons'!"

The phone-paid industry and young consumers

New research commissioned by PhonepayPlus shows that, in 2008, 47% of 11-17 year olds will have used a phone-paid service. Of these users, only 15% read advertising about phone-paid services ‘most of the time' or ‘always.' Additionally, there is evidence that young people are habitually being ripped off - some to the tune of thousands of pounds!

Teenagers today are more technologically savvy than ever before - they can interact with TV programmes, receive celeb gossip and sports alerts, make payments and personalise their own mobile phones with ringtones, logos and other downloads; all of which cost them money. While the majority of these are a great way for young people to get what they want, when they want it, it is important for young people to understand the services they are using and ensure they are not being scammed in any way. Some of the most common concerns for young people include chargeable promotional messages, misleading pricing and unclear subscription charges.

Paul Whiteing, Acting CEO of PhonepayPlus said: "Thousands of young people use these services every day, be it to download ringtones and other mobile personalisation products, or to use one of the many other enjoyable phone-paid services on offer. Most enjoy using them and never come to harm. Unfortunately, some others are subject to scams and misleading marketing practices.

"At PhonepayPlus, our role is not just to slam companies that misbehave but to build trust and confidence in these services. We want to make sure that anyone can use phone-paid services with absolute confidence, and the schools programme will help us to do that. It's an ambitious project, but one we are confident will mean that young people get the phone-paid service they wanted, at the price they expected to pay."

PhonepayPlus already have a number of protective measures in place including:

  • A free number checking facility that lets would-be buyers check a number before they dial or text it, and allows bill payers to make sure they recognise what a particular charge was for. Available at SMSus (76787) the free number checking service available direct to your mobile phone. For more details go to
  • Online complaint form and dedicated Contact Centre on hand to deal with any consumer concerns - 0800 500 212 (Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm)
  • Existing area of the PhoneBrain website ([LINK: -> TITLE :]) designed and dedicated to educating young people (aged seven to 12).
  • An emergency procedure which enables PhonepayPlus to shut down services immediately in cases of extreme consumer harm (including when the ‘STOP' command is not working).

For more information on the youth education programme visit [LINK: -> TITLE :] or contact Della Bolat at Paratus Communications on 020 7404 6691, or by email: