Between 2 May 2012 and 9 September 2013, PhonepayPlus received 587 complaints from consumers in relation to a competition subscription service (the “Service”) operated by the Level 2 provider Zamano Solutions Ltd, under the brand name “PlayN’Win”. The Service operated on the premium rate shortcodes 60699 and 81002 and cost £4.50 per week. The Service operated between April 2012 and 13 June 2013 when it was voluntarily suspended by the Level 2 provider. The Service was promoted online using affiliate marketing.
Consumers subscribed to the Service (using a key word SMS or an online PIN code opt-in) and were entered into a weekly draw to win prizes such as iPhones, iPads or £50.
Complainants either stated that they had received unsolicited, reverse-billed text messages and that they had not engaged with the Service, or acknowledged engaging with the Service but stated that they believed it was free. PhonepayPlus monitoring revealed concerns about affiliate marketing promotions for the Service.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the "Code"):
- Rule 2.3.1 – Fair and equitable treatment
- Rule 2.3.2 – Misleading
The Tribunal upheld both breaches of the Code. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was within the range of Band 1 (£500,000+). The Tribunal considered the case to be serious and issued a formal reprimand, a fine of £40,000 (including a £15,000 uplift which was imposed as a result of the Level 2 provider’s relevant breach history) 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.