We are the UK regulator for content, goods and services charged to a phone bill.

PhonepayPlus launches digital marketing consultation

16 May 2013

PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services (PRS), today releases its proposals to protect consumers from aggressive and misleading online marketing. This follows a 100% rise in complaints related to online promotions of PRS.

PhonepayPlus receives around 350 complaints a month about digital marketing and has taken robust action against the PRS providers involved. In 2012 the regulator imposed fines totalling £1.38 million against 10 companies that used misleading promotions. The regulator is also taking action to stop these problems before they happen.  PhonepayPlus is particularly concerned about how some PRS providers use affiliate marketers. The regulator recognises that many affiliate marketers provide a valuable marketing service. However, some techniques used by some of these affiliates in the push to drive traffic and earn commission are inherently misleading, including promises of free content which in fact have costs attached and the chance to win non-existent prizes.

Young people who have grown up with free web content can be particularly vulnerable, expecting to find content like films, game codes and live sports for free online. A typical misleading promotion lures users by offering a paid for service, such as a subscription only sporting event, for free if a survey is filled in. As part of the survey the user is asked for their phone number which, unknown to the user, can give permission to charge for services at a premium rate to their phone bill.

The consultation will close on 27 June 2013.

The full consultation document can be found here.