Between 21 March 2013 and 16 August 2013, PhonepayPlus received 14 complaints from consumers in relation to a voice changer service, (the “service”), which was operated by the Level 2 provider Acetelecom (the “Level 2 provider”). The service operated on the premium rate numbers 09051050401, 09051050402 and 09051050403 that had been allocated to the Level 2 provider by the Network operator Syntec Limited. Consumers were charged £1.00 per minute (plus Network charges).
The service operated between 16 March 2013 and 9 May 2013, when it was voluntarily suspended by the Network operator. Promotions for the service were suspended by the Level 2 provider on 22 April 2013, following correspondence with PhonepayPlus.
The majority of complaints were made by parents on behalf of their children, who had interacted with the service after viewing a promotion on a children’s application (an “App”). Some complainants stated that they were unaware that they would incur charges.
The Executive raised the following potential breaches of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice (12th Edition) (the "Code"):
• Rule 2.3.12 (b) - Spend caps
• Rule 2.3.1 - Fair and equitable treatment
• Rule 2.2.1 (a) - Provision of information
The Tribunal upheld all of the breaches of the Code raised. The Level 2 provider’s revenue in relation to the service was within the range of Band 6 (£5,000 - £49,999). The Tribunal considered the case to be very serious and issued a formal reprimand, a fine of £60,000 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.