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What are phone-paid services?
Phone-paid services are additional services that you pay for using a phone bill. Your phone has a payment account attached to it, and you can make purchases this way.
The phone-paid services market was worth £646.1 million in 2019-2020, and in the same year we estimate 52% of the UK population (aged 16 or above) used at least one phone-paid service.
Common examples of phone-paid services include TV voting lines, charity text donations, competitions, music streaming, in-app content and game downloads. It also includes services that have been established for longer, like directory enquiries and chatlines.
A lot of major brands use phone-paid services, for example Spotify, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google. Large charity fundraising events – for example Comic Relief and The Big Night In – also use donation via text.
What is the Phone-paid Services Authority?
The Phone-paid Services Authority, or the PSA, is the regulator of content, goods and services, charged to a phone bill.
The PSA’s role is to make sure that consumers are protected when paying for phone-paid services and it acts in the interests of consumers. In the last financial year (FY 2019/20), the PSA received 13,914 complaints from consumers about phone-paid services.
The PSA brings enforcement action against phone-paid service providers that break the rules. In 2020, the PSA’s independent Tribunal heard 17 cases, issued over £2.6 million in fines against companies that broke the rules, and banned 16 companies and individuals from the market.
Here is some general advice for consumers about avoiding unexpected phone charges and what to do if you find one. If you require any consumer advice on a specific issue, please email the PSA’s press team on firstname.lastname@example.org who will be happy to provide this.
Tips to avoid unexpected phone charges
When browsing the internet using your phone, be aware that you can charge content to your phone bill. Be careful what you click on – be that ads, pop-ups or links. And make sure you read all the Terms & Conditions and understand what you’re doing if you do want to make a purchase using your phone bill, to ensure you’re not inadvertently signing up for a recurring charge.
When you ring a phone number, it’s worth checking what it starts with. Official helplines usually begin 01, 02, 03 and 080, which are either free or billed at low or standard rates. Numbers starting 09, 087, 084 and 118 are billed at premium rates – rates higher than standard rates. The service charge for these numbers varies between a maximum of 7p per minute for numbers beginning 084 up to £3.60 per minute for numbers beginning 09.
What to do if you find a charge on your phone bill that you weren’t expecting
Check your phone bill regularly and make sure you understand what is on your bill.
If you find an unexpected charge on your phone bill from a phone-paid service, contact the company that runs the service first. You can also use our Service Checker or contact your telephone provider to find out the contact details of the service provider.
You can also contact your mobile network if you need further information about charges, or to ask them to block all premium-rate charges to your account (though be aware that this can prevent you from accessing services that you do what).
If you’ve taken these steps and still need help, get in touch with us. You can submit an enquiry online at www.psauthority.org.uk or call us on 0300 30 300 20 (Monday - Friday, 9.30am – 12.30pm).
Before you call us, make sure you have the name of the service provider or their phone number, a copy of the text message confirming the charge/subscription (if applicable), and any other information that might help us identify the service.