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Adjudication

Publication Date
28 November 2013
Case Reference
19887
Procedure
Track 2
Adjudicated Party
Worldwide Websites Limited
Service Type
Adult dating and chat service
Tribunal's final assessment
Serious
Sanctions
Code 12 para 4.8.2b - Formal reprimand and/or warning
Code 12 para 4.8.2e - Bar
Code 12 para 4.8.2i - General refunds
Code 12 para 4.8.2d - Fine
Breaches raised
Code 12 2.3.2 Misleading
Code 12 2.2.5 Rules relating to pricing
Code 12 2.3.7 Fairness
Code 12 3.4.12 (a) Numbers
Summary

Between 2 March 2013 and 15 July 2013, PhonepayPlus received three complaints in relation to an adult dating and chat service, which operated under the brand name “British Sex Contacts” (the “Service”), and was provided by the Level 2 provider Worldwide Websites Limited. The Service operated on the premium rate shortcode 79910 and the premium rate number 0909 967 2810. Consumers using the shortcode were charged £10 for seven credits (sending a message to another member cost one credit). Consumers using the premium rate number were charged £1.50 per minute to purchase one credit. The Level 1 provider Velti DR Limited was contracted with the Mobile Network operators for the shortcode. Velti DR Limited was contracted with another Level 1 provider GlobalCharge Limited which was contracted with the Level 2 provider. The Service commenced operation on the shortcode on 28 July 2011. The Network operator for the premium rate number was 3C Ltd. The premium rate number commenced operation, according to the Network operator’s call records, on 1 July 2009 although the Level 2 provider stated it was July 2011. In July 2013, both elements of the Service were voluntarily suspended by the Level 2 provider following correspondence with PhonepayPlus.

Following receipt of two complaints about the Service, PhonepayPlus conducted monitoring which highlighted concerns about consumers being likely to be misled regarding the operation of the Service.

The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the "Code").

  • Rule 2.3.2 – Misleading
  • Rule 2.2.5 – Pricing prominence and proximity
  • Rule - 2.3.7 – Age verification
  • Paragraph 3.4.12(a) – Registration of numbers

The Tribunal upheld all the breaches of the Code raised save for the breach of rule 2.3.7. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was within the range of Band 2 (£250,000-£500,000). The Tribunal considered the case to be serious and issued a formal reprimand, a fine of £75,000, a requirement that access to the Service is barred until compliance advice has been implemented to the satisfaction of PhonepayPlus and a requirement that the Level 2 provider must refund all consumers who claim a refund, for the full amount spent by them on the Service, within 28 days of their claim, save where there is good cause to believe that such claims are not valid, and provide evidence to PhonepayPlus that such refunds have been made.

Click here to view the Adjudication decision