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Complaints fall by 75% but mobile generation still vulnerable, says regulator

11 March 2011

PhonepayPlus, the regulator for premium rate telephone services, today announced that consumer complaints fell by 75% over two years, from 23,624 complaints in 2008 to 6,058 complaints in 2010. However, complaints about premium rate services on mobile phones remain the number one source of consumer complaints to the regulator, accounting for 88% of complaints between 2008 and 2010. PhonepayPlus cautioned that the regulator, industry and consumers still all needed to be vigilant in the fast-moving world of mobile technology. Smartphones, the mobile internet and the rise of micropayments all open up new opportunities for business innovation and consumers but also come with potential pitfalls, particularly for young consumers.

These latest figures are announced as PhonepayPlus’ launches its award-winning youth education programme, PhoneBrain 2011. Running for the past two years in UK schools, the PhoneBrain programme was put together by PhonepayPlus, the UK national regulator for premium rate telephone services (PRS), with input from the PRS industry and teachers. PhoneBrain helps young people to understand and use PRS, particularly on their mobiles, safely and wisely, identifying what responsible, compliant services look like and what to be aware of when accessing services. In two years, PhoneBrain has reached 20% of schools nationwide with thousands of students taking part. In 2011, the programme aims to break new ground with ambitious plans to expand.

This year’s programme will encourage potential young business leaders in low-income areas to come up with business models that use mobiles for the benefit of the local community. In 2011, PhonepayPlus is joining forces with the young social entrepreneurship support organisation, Live UnLtd, to offer a number of funding awards together with mentoring to help the best business ideas that have social and community benefits to get up and running. For the first time, the programme is also being rolled out to youth clubs throughout the UK via the Clubs for Young People network.

The PRS market in the UK is worth £810 million annually and is an area ripe for business and social entrepreneurship. Recent innovations such as charity text donations are breaking new ground and opening up models that benefit both business and the community.

Paul Whiteing, Chief Executive of PhonepayPlus, said:

“We’re really pleased to be working with Clubs for Young People and Live UnLtd for the first time and feel that their involvement clearly focuses the objective of this year’s programme – showing how technology, a topic young people are passionate about, can be used for good community and business ends. The message from the regulator and from the PRS industry in general is that ‘Responsible business is good business’ and we look forward to judging the entries to the entrepreneurship challenge.”

Helen Marshall, Chief Operating Officer at Clubs for Young People, praised the expansion of the project to thousands of more young people via youth clubs across the country:

“Clubs for Young People is proud to be a part of PhoneBrain 2011 and to be launching the programme in one of our flagship youth centres – the Green Towers Hinckley Club 4 Young People in Leicestershire. PhoneBrain reached 850 secondary schools last year and Clubs for Young People is excited to be involved in delivering the programme to the 3,000 youth clubs and projects in our network – reaching thousands more young people.”

Backing the combination of social entrepreneurship and new technology, Josie Emberton, Head of Live UnLtd, said:

“Live UnLtd are pleased to be working alongside this year’s PhoneBrain initiative. Live UnLtd believes passionately that young people hold the answers to many of the social issues facing the UK and we provide the funding and support needed to put their ideas into action. We're always looking for new ways of encouraging young people to change the world around them for the better and PhoneBrain is a great way of showing how young people can use mobile technology to create something completely new and different that also has a wider community or social benefit.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Additionally, teens that have an interest in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) can create their own, personalised mobile ringtone using imagery provided by Habbo, the virtual world and social networking site for teens, and music provided by independent music label Moshi Moshi Records. The finished ringtones can then be uploaded to the PhoneBrain website to be judged for the chance to win tickets to see the X Factor live – courtesy of ITV.
  2. For more information on the PhoneBrain project and how you can get involved, visit www.phonebrain.org.uk, or call the PhonepayPlus Press Office on 020 7940 7440.
  3. The winners of the PhoneBrain ICT and Enterprise challenges will be announced in late June/early July.
  4. PhonepayPlus is the organisation (previously known as ICSTIS) that regulates premium rate (or 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.
  5. Live UnLtd is a support organisation coordinated by UnLtd, the world’s largest network of support for social entrepreneurs. Led by a team of passionate young people, Live UnLtd provides funding awards of up to £5,000 to young people aged 11-21 who have an idea which could make a positive impact on the world around them. For further information on Live UnLtd visit www.liveunltd.com