Between 17 April 2014 and 26 June 2014, PhonepayPlus received 33 complaints from consumers in relation to a recruitment and recruitment training and advice service, (the “Service”), which often operated under the brand name of “BKT Recruitment” and is operated by the Level 2 provider, BKings Group Limited (formerly known as BKings Telecommunications Limited) (the “Level 2 provider”). The Service operated on various 090 premium rate numbers that had been allocated to the Level 2 provider by the Network operator Numbers Plus Ltd (the “Network operator”). Consumers were charged between 61p and £1.53 per minute (plus Network charges). The Service operated from April 2014 and continues to operate.
The majority of complaints stated that they had received an email notifying them that they had been selected for a telephone job interview. Some complainants also reported receiving a job specification. Complainants stated that they had called the 090 number but they were unaware that they would incur premium rate charges, as such many experienced bill shock. Many complainants also reported being kept on the line for extended periods of time or being asked a series of irrelevant or repetitive questions. One complainant reported incurring charges of £128 plus VAT after interacting with the Service and many complainants reported being on the call for over an hour.
The Executive raised the following breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the “Code”):
• Rule 2.3.2 – Misleading
• Rule 2.1.1 – Legality
• Rule 2.2.1(a) – Provision of information
• Paragraph 3.4.12(a) – Registration of numbers
The Tribunal upheld all the breaches of the Code. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the Service was in the range of Band 5 (£50,000 - £99,999). The Tribunal considered the case to be serious and issued a formal reprimand, a requirement that the Level 2 provider seek compliance advice for the Service and any other services that it operates within two weeks of the date of publication of this decision and thereafter implement that advice within two weeks (subject to any extension of time agreed with PhonepayPlus) to the satisfaction of PhonepayPlus, a fine of £40,000 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.