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PhonepayPlus publishes Independent Appeals Body decision on Transact Group (Holdings) Ltd appeal

04 July 2011

PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate services, today published the decision of the Independent Appeals Body (IAB) that met on 16 May 2011 to consider an appeal from Transact Group (Holdings) Ltd against the decision of the Oral Tribunal Hearing dated 16 July 2010. 

The case was originally adjudicated on 29 October 2009 and concerned unsolicited text messages received by consumers between January and October 2009. Consumers had received SMS or WAP-push messages containing a link for virtual text chat. A number of consumers had complained to PhonepayPlus that they had never opted-in to receive these messages and were being charged for receipt of them. The original Tribunal upheld several breaches, found the case to be very serious and imposed a fine of £250,000 in addition to a Formal Reprimand and a requirement for Transact to pay refunds to complainants.  Transact then requested an oral hearing which was heard on 16 July 2010.

The Oral Hearing Tribunal found that the Code of Practice had been breached in several ways and that those breaches were very serious. The Oral Hearing Tribunal imposed a fine of £167,959, together with a prohibition for six months from being involved in or contracting for any premium rate text chat services (with or without a dating element), an ordered to seek compliance advice and a bar from operating any premium rate service on four shortcodes, suspended for three months pending compliance advice being sought and acted on by the company to the satisfaction of the PhonepayPlus Executive. Transact then appealed to the IAB on the ground that the Oral Hearing Tribunal had erred in law in reaching its decision.

The IAB heard the appeal on 19 May 2011 and found that the Oral Hearing Tribunal had not erred in law in reaching its findings and decisions, except for its decision on the fine sanction which had been based on the revenue it found to have been generated by the services. The IAB decided to impose only a fine of £220,000 noting that the other earlier sanctions had already been carried out.  The IAB also awarded PhonepayPlus its costs up to a set maximum.

summary of the IAB decision can be read here.

The full IAB decision can be read here.