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PSA fines company that posed as digital employer £165,000

25 October 2018

Company misled consumers into calling premium-rate numbers believing they were being provided with remote employment opportunities

  • Tribunal issued a substantial fine, ordered the company to pay refunds and barred access to the service until the breaches are remedied and compliance advice sought from PSA. The company also has to submit to a full compliance audit.
  • Heart Communications operated ‘Paid People’ and ‘UK Assignments’ websites which directed people to call 09 number after giving them the impression that they were signing up for paid work through the sites
  • Calls cost £2.50 per minute and were prolonged by operator requesting a large amount of unnecessary personal information

Heart Communications has been issued with a £165,000 fine for operating two websites which misled people into dialling premium rate numbers in the expectation that they were accessing paid remote working opportunities.

The company, which operated the paidpeople.co.uk and ukassingnments.co.uk websites, claimed that the websites were information services providing consumers with advice about working from home.

Consumers registered with the website. After providing personal details, they were instructed to call a 09-number charging £2.50 per minute. They were then asked a series of questions by an operator, in calls which could take more than 15 minutes.

Many consumers reported that they were not subsequently given paid work through the site as they had been led to believe.

The PSA Tribunal found that the websites were ‘misleading’. Consumers were also not made aware of the cost of calling the 09 number, which was not clearly labelled on the website.

Some consumers also tried to complain to the company but did not have their complaints resolved quickly, easily and fairly, as required by the PSA Code of Practice.

One consumer said: “I went onto a website called Paid People which leads people to believe that they have assignments waiting so that you can earn money by choosing whatever tasks or projects suit you… They ask you to register with them online and you’ll be emailed login details to their portal, once I did this, they ask you to call 09131 240 150 to get your activation code. Once you ring them, the operator will ask you to repeat everything you filled in online… The wording is misleading as it leads you to believe you are ringing to get an activation code.”

The company has been issued with a £165,000 fine. Access to the service is barred until the company has remedied the breaches of the PSA Code, sought compliance advice. The company must also submit to a compliance audit.
General Refunds have also been ordered, meaning that all eligible consumers who claim a refund from the service provider must receive one.

Joanne Prowse, CEO of PSA said: “The Tribunal found that the company had misled consumers and failed to resolve consumer complaints quickly, easily or fairly in this case. We expect good standards from phone-paid service providers and these services clearly failed to live up to those.  Misleading the public and charging them for something that’s different to what they expect is clearly bad practice. We believe that these sanctions reflect the seriousness of this case.”

For full details please see the tribunal minutes.