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PSA Tribunal fines company that misled people into calling directory enquiry numbers £200,000

2 October 2018

A company which misled people into calling premium rate numbers after they’d misdialled geographic numbers has been fined £200,000 and prohibited from the market by the regulator, the Phone-paid Services Authority.

The company, PowerTel, placed voice messages on “hundreds of thousands” of out-of-use numbers instructing people to call its 118 lines, which are used for Directory Enquiry services. Calls to these numbers cost between £2 and £6.98 per call, and then £2-3.49 per minute.  

The voice message for the 118 023 number, operated by PowerTel, went as follows:  

“This number is out of service, call 118 023, call 118 023, call 1-1-8-0-2-3, for directory enquires” before mentioning the cost of the call. Consumers reported being confused by the message and hanging up before the cost of the call was given.  

The PSA Code Adjudication Tribunal upheld all alleged breaches of the PSA Code of Practice for phone-paid service providers. 

These included a failure to clearly inform consumers of the cost of the call, misleading consumers, failing to renew its registration with the regulator, and failure to provide information to the PSA during the investigation.

One consumer from Blackburn said: “I dialled 01254 450045 by mistake… I got a message, ‘this number is out of service, call 118023.’ Thinking this was a Specsavers message [the intended destination of the call] I dialled 118023. I realised my mistake immediately and hung up. I was not advised of any charges when I got the message and was shocked to see a charge for £7.05 for 22 seconds on my bill.”  

The PSA Tribunal has ordered a refund for all consumers who are eligible to receive one. 

The adjudication can be viewed in full here