£375,000 fine for company that subscribed consumers to games platform
21 March 2019
PSA issues £375,000 fine to company which operated the Best VIP Games subscription content service.
The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) has issued a £375,000 fine to a company which operated the Best VIP Games subscription content service.
Inter Inventory Company had operated the service since May 2017 but had not registered it with the PSA, as required for any company operating in the UK phone-paid services market.
The service was promoted via adverts placed on other third-party websites. Consumers who’d interacted with these adverts were charged £4.50 a week to receive links to online games via text message.
The company was also found to have used affiliate marketers that used‘content locking’ to promote the service, a practice which involves barring access to a service until payment has been made via a platform operated by a third party. Consumers who had been trying to access content for popular apps like Pokémon Go had been required to subscribe to Best VIP Games in order to do so, believing they were simply providing verification that they were a genuine user and not an automated system or programme trying to gain access to the platform – a ‘bot’.
The PSA Tribunal found that the service was misleading and had failed to treat consumers fairly, as is required by the PSA Code of Practice. Consumers were unable to readily access the games portal they’d subscribed to and were not sent any direct links to the games via text. The service provider had also failed to provide a quick, easy and fair complaints process, leaving many consumers struggling to query charges or request refunds. Finally, they failed to register the required service information with PSA.
Considering the severity of the breaches, the PSA Tribunal saw fit to impose a fine of £375,000.
Joanne Prowse, Chief Executive of the PSA, said: ‘Protecting consumers and putting their interests first is a key priority in our regulation. In this instance, our Tribunal found that the company had misled consumers and failed to provide satisfactory customer care. This is very poor practice and our Tribunal saw fit to impose these substantial sanctions.’