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REGULATORY REVIEW OF MOBILE PREMIUM RATE SERVICES MARKET

1 May 2008


PhonepayPlus has today announced a review of mobile premium services which in the UK are worth around £350 million annually, and include digital content such as music ringtones, games and other downloads. The review will provide an overview of mobile phone-paid services, and identify issues affecting UK consumers. Of particular interest are unsolicited promotions, especially text messages; price transparency and subscription services.


PhonepayPlus, the phone-paid services regulator, today announced a review of mobile premium services which in the UK are worth around £350 million annually, and include digital content such as music ringtones, games and other downloads. Recent evidence of significant consumer harm indicates the need for a strategic approach to dealing with failures in compliance.

The spontaneity and simplicity of the phone-paid payment mechanism allows millions of consumers to enjoy mobile services such as ringtones and other downloads, competitions and TV voting. Most consumers use these services without worry or aggravation.

However, new figures have led to increasing concerns about some services:

  • In the first three months of this year, PhonepayPlus received more than 4,500 complaints related to mobile. This equates to 80% of all complaints received, a 40% increase on mobile related complaints over a similar period last year; In 2007, PhonepayPlus adjudicated on 33 mobile services with total fines in excess of £360,000;
  • By March 2008, PhonepayPlus had already adjudicated on 15 mobile services, resulting in fines of £223,500. Today, PhonepayPlus published adjudications on four more cases, resulting in fines of £68,000; and
  • 45% of premium-rate numbers and short codes checked by consumers on PhonepayPlus' website this year related to mobile services, as compared to 24% this time last year.


The review, which PhonepayPlus aims to publish in July, will provide an overview of mobile phone-paid services, and identify issues affecting UK consumers. Of particular interest to PhonepayPlus at this early stage are:

  • Unsolicited promotions, especially text messages; Price transparency and the use of words that indicate content is ‘free'; and
  • Subscription services (e.g. ringtones) and the ‘STOP' command


"There are clear rules when it comes to the promotion, content and delivery of mobile phone paid services. We expect these rules to be followed and any failings of compliance will be punished," said George Kidd, Chief Executive of PhonepayPlus.

"PhonepayPlus will work with all interested parties to understand the issues, examine the evidence and, if necessary, propose solutions."

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For further information, please contact:

PhonepayPlus press office on (020) 7940 7415 or (020) 7940 7447.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About PhonepayPlus

PhonepayPlus is the organisation (previously known as ICSTIS) that regulates phone-paid services - the goods and services that you can buy by charging the cost to your phone bills and mobile pre-pay accounts. Further details of its work can be found at www.phonepayplus.org.uk