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Am I responsible for a purchase if: A friend / partner / co-worker / family member used my phone. My phone was bouncing in my pocket and accidentally purchased content. My phone was stolen.
Answer: Unfortunately, unless you have reported your phone lost or stolen, you are responsible for all charges to the account within network set limits. The contract between you and the mobile network operator is likely to state that you are responsible for all charges including third party purchases. If you have a data plan that allows tethering, be careful that other people using your tethering are not purchasing digital services as these purchases may be charged to your account.

Next Step: If purchases appear on your bill that you don’t recognise and you are sure that you did not make them, have a chat with anyone who could have had access to your mobile phone. Remember that this includes while tethering. Raise the possibility to see if they are responsible for the purchases.

In any event, set a screen lock on your handset. This will prevent unauthorised use and pocket dialling.

Also, treat your phone as you would your wallet. Don’t loan it to people unsupervised.

You can contact the merchant for a refund, but bear in mind they may not be obligated to provide one.

I did not request this service, how do I get my money back?
Answer: Premium rate services are required to display the price clearly, close to the button or tick box you select when purchasing, or close to the instructions telling you how to join the service. Services cannot charge unless you or someone using your phone gave permission.

Some services ask you to send a text to a short number, some send you a text with a code that has to be entered into a web site to complete the purchase and some will ask you to make a call to a short number or long number starting 09. Others will ask you to click a button or thumbnail on a mobile website.

We, the regulator of premium rate services, require merchants to be able to prove that each and every person has signed up. In the vast, majority of cases, they can and do prove each purchase. Therefore it is most likely that either someone else used your mobile phone or you have forgotten making a purchase.

Check your text message in-box or call log. Even if the purchase was on a website, you should have been sent a text receipt. If you did not request this service, could somebody else have from your phone? Does anyone else have access to your phone, including when you are asleep? Are you using tethering? Have you given your phone to a relative e.g. a spouse or a child? Do you leave your phone unlocked and lying around?

See also ‘My friend / partner / co-worker / family member used my phone’ above.

Next Step: Check your text message sent box and call log to see if your phone was used to contact the service.

Check your text message inbox to see if you received any text receipts for the service.

Speak to the provider of the service and ask them to explain when and how you or someone using your phone accessed the service and ask for more information about the service.

If the merchant can prove that your phone was used to make a purchase then they may not be obligated to provide a refund.

See also:
‘How to find the merchant?’
‘What is proof?’
I am receiving text messages. Is it true that if I delete these text messages I will not get charged? My phone is switched off and I did not get the texts. Can I still get charged?
Answer: Text messages are usually a receipt for a charge than has already been added to your account. Deleting, not opening, blocking, or not receiving the receipt will not prevent you from being charged.

On the contrary, the text message is likely to contain important information including the contact details of the provider of the service that has charged you. If it is a subscription service (one that charges on a repeating basis) it will contain important instructions on how to stop the service and charges. Opening and reading it is important. Do not delete the message.

Next Step: Open and read any text messages you receive. If it sounds like you are being charged, reply STOP or follow the instructions provided on how to stop the service.

If the service continues to charge you or send messages to you, speak to the provider of the service.

See also “when to send stop”
I am getting messages about PPI / Accident Claims / Bank Charges / Diet Pills. Do I ignore or delete them?
Answer: The Information Commissioner is responsible for protecting your privacy – including helping you prevent unwanted marketing messages.

All marketing is required to explain how to opt-out of receiving future marketing.

If these messages come from a long number starting with 07, you will not have been charged, but they still may be unwanted.

If you are getting other types of marketing messages see I am getting other types of marketing messages, what do I do?, below.

Next Step: If you cannot identify the company sending the messages, then forward the message to your network reporting service on 7726. You may get a question back from the service to which you should also reply. This is generally a free-to-use service.

You can also access the Information Commissioner’s website for reporting spam texts. They may not be able to stop the texts, but can investigate and use your data to facilitate an investigation and potentially fine the sender.

I am getting other types of marketing messages, what do I do?
Answer: If you are receiving marketing messages from a short code (5 digit number) or the message is from “FreeMsg” or a name, then follow instructions inside the message for opt-ing out of further text marketing.

Next Step: If the messages come from a short code and cannot be stopped, contact the Phone-paid Services Authority or your mobile network operator.

My child has a phone that has been receiving charges. My child may have subscribed to a service but he / she has learning difficulties or sight disability. What do I do? My elderly relative used services, but they cannot see properly and do not know what they are doing
Answer: If the phone is in your name you will be liable to the network operator for all charges including charges applied by accessing third party services. It is important that you monitor the phone usage.

If there are any messages on the phone that indicate a charge has been applied please see “Am I in a subscription service?”.

Next Step: If the message is a receipt, it should have contact details within it.

If the message is a confirmation of a subscription service, follow the instructions to stop the service. You should then speak to the provider of the service.

You are responsible for monitoring the usage of any phone in your name. Explain the learning difficulties or disability to the provider. The provider does not have to give you a refund, but most will be sympathetic.

What is a subscription service? How do I know if I am in a subscription service?
Answer: A subscription service is one where the charges for the service repeat on a regular basis. Generally it will be associated with on-going services such as a regular prize draw, music streaming, games and video clubs. Other subscription services charge you when an event or notification happens, such as a football results service.

When you start a subscription service, some messages may be sent to your mobile phone for you to confirm your mobile number or your web entry.

After you have subscribed, you will receive a message similar to the following: “You have subscribed to [name of service] which will cost you [£x] per week until you text stop to xxxxx. Help? 0303xxxxxx”. Additionally, each time total charges go past £20 you will get a reminder message that looks similar.

Next Step: All subscription services in the UK have to follow a set of rules for starting the service and for repeating the charges and will cease the service once you text STOP to the short code detailed.

If you no longer want the service, you must text STOP to the short code detailed, otherwise you will continue to be charged.

Blocking, deleting or ignoring the messages will not stop the charges.

If the charges and messages continue, text STOP ALL to the shortcode detailed in the messages or contact the provider using the contact details provided in the messages.

Read the instructions carefully. Sometimes, just replying to the message you received may not stop the subscription as the receipt may be from a different number than the one you need to use to stop it.

How did they get my mobile number to bill me?
Answer: When you purchase goods or services that are then charged on your mobile phone bill, your mobile number is required for billing purposes. Typically your mobile number it is gained using one of these four methods:
  1. You were asked (or saw a promotion) to send a message with a code to a short code (5 digit number). All messages include the identity of the sender. So, by sending this message, your number is identified.
  2. You were asked to enter your number into an internet service and were sent a message with a code that you had to put back into the service. Sometimes you supply your mobile number to a general site that then passes your number onto any offers described on that site that you are interested in.
  3. You were accessing an internet service which sent you to a payment intermediary to confirm the purchase. The payment intermediary is a trusted partner of the mobile networks. The payment intermediary would have received your mobile number electronically and securely from your network operator. This method is commonly used with the Payforit scheme.
  4. You received a marketing message with a link that you then clicked to access the service. The sender of the marketing message knew your mobile number. The link contains a code that identifies the number of the phone the marketing message was sent to.
These methods are the most secure methods of identifying a mobile user for billing purposes. Other methods may exist.

Next Step: If you do not recall using one of these methods, contact the provider and ask them to explain how they identified you and how you agreed to purchase the service.

What is Payforit? Is it a scam? Is it a company?
Answer: Payforit is a mobile payment facility set up and managed by the UK mobile network operators; Three, Vodafone, O2 and EE. The scheme ensures that when you purchase digital goods and services from internet providers that the transaction is carried out securely by a separate company. These companies are called Payment Intermediaries and are contracted to the network operators.

The Payforit scheme rules ensures that you see the price and other terms of service before you make a commitment to purchase and that commitment is gained, usually through a button with appropriate wording. The charge is only applied to your mobile phone bill when the button is pressed.

Some networks have a separate section of the bill titled Payforit and some networks list each transaction as Payforit.

When you use a service charged using the Payforit scheme, you will receive a text receipt to your phone. This text receipt will detail the product that has been purchased and contact details for you to discuss the purchase if you need to.

Payforit is not a company. It is a set of rules for the display of information to consumers including the receipts.

Some blog sites contain consumer statements that Payforit is a scam. This is incorrect and these sites are being contacted to remove any false information.

Next Step: Payforit is a billing mechanism. It is not a separate company.

Payforit is owned by the four UK mobile network operators and ensures that the price of a service is clear before you make a purchase.

Payforit is not a scam. On the contrary it is a quality mark, guaranteeing that your purchase was legitimate and witnessed by a neutral third party.

If you have any questions about Payforit, please call your mobile network operator.

I never signed a contract so how can I be billed? My under 16 used the service. Am I responsible for charges?
Answer: A transaction between a consumer and a trader or merchant which is agreed across a mobile device with internet access (or from a PC) is known as a “distance sale”. UK law establishes how and when the contract has been made. First, prior to the contract being made, you must be able to see all relevant information including price. Second, you have made a positive commitment to purchase. Once this is done, you are bound to that contract. A signature is not required.

The premium rate industry is a very mature industry and in the vast majority of case, your entry into a distance contract would have been witnessed electronically by a neutral third-party.

Some premium rate services are aimed at children. These services have to comply with additional protections and spend limits. Most mobile services are not aimed at children and they usually have in the terms, an exclusion for under 16’s e.g. “You must be the bill payer and must be 16 or over”. If an under 16 user ignores this instruction and commits to the transaction, the bill payer is still liable for the charges. See also ''A friend /spouse /co-worker/ family member used my phone and made the purchase, am I responsible?''.

Next Step: A signature is not required for there to be a contract. The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 detail what is required for an electronic agreement to be binding.

In terms of use of your phone by a minor, you are responsible for monitoring the usage of any phone in your name.

If a minor has used your phone, contact the merchant and explain the situation. The provider may not be obligated to offer a refund, but they may be sympathetic.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations say that I have a 14 day cooling off period or money back guarantee. Is this correct?
Answer: Not strictly a cooling off period, but yes, you can ask for your money back and return the goods inside 14 days. There are, however, a range of exemptions. Digital content and services generally are consumed immediately and therefore have a special rule that says that the provider who sold the goods must tell you that the sale is exempt from this rule and you must agree to this. Typically merchants will do this by putting the exemption in the terms and asking you to confirm the sale and the terms in one button press.

Next Step: Speak to the provider and ask for a copy of the terms of the service that you saw when you made the purchase.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations say that pre-ticked boxes are illegal. Is this correct?
Answer: This is true if the pre-ticked box changes how much you are charged after you have agreed to make a purchase, in other words it opts you in for a hidden charge.

Pre-ticked boxes themselves are not illegal. Indeed, pre-ticked boxes are common when allowing users to opt-out of future marketing or to use a particular payment method and these are not illegal and are actually used to comply with regulations.

Next Step: If you have used a service with a pre-ticked box and the service cost you more than you were told, then you should speak to the provider and ask for a copy of the screen that you saw when you made the purchase

What do I do if I didn’t do anything or click anything or there was no pricing and I was billed anyway?
Answer: Under the Consumer Contracts and the Phone-paid Services Authority Regulations, providers are required to robustly record any interactions between your phone and their service which result in a charge being applied.

In conjunction with this a third party captures a screen shot at the time of your interaction. This process is securely recorded and can demonstrate what pricing information was displayed to you at the time.

Next Step: If you believe there was no pricing information, then you should speak to the provider and ask for a copy of the screen that you saw when you made the purchase.

I could not close the page on my mobile. So, I entered the competition to get rid of it. What do I do now?
Answer: There should always be a way to exit the page without making a purchase. In some instances you must interact with the site but you should be able to exit the site. In some circumstances, exiting a site may lead you to an advert for another service. If you do not want to exit in this way, enter a different website address in your browser toolbar.

The government has produced a good website that explains this and other issues: www.cyberstreetwise.co.uk

Next Step: Contact the merchant using the details within the message if you’re unsure of why you have received it.

Is it correct that if I call the Phone-paid Services Authority and complain, they will get me a refund.
Answer: No, the Phone-paid Services Authority are responsible for ensuring that a service has operated in compliance with their Code of Practice. Where a service is found to be non compliant enforcement action will be taken which may include you receiving a refund.

Next Step: You should speak to the provider of the service directly to discuss a possible refund.

My mobile network told me that the merchant / provider is required to refund me. Is this correct?
Answer: This would be true if the merchant / provider of the service has done something wrong. All merchants, under distance selling regulations, are required to be able to provide evidence that you agreed to their charge by taking a positive step once you saw the relevant information including the price.

If the merchant uses a payment intermediary, then the payment intermediary can validate for the merchant that you made the purchase.

If the merchant charges you directly themselves, then they are required to have a separate party provide the validation. If they cannot provide the validation, then they should refund you.

Next Step: Contact the merchant and request details of how they validated your purchase.

I don’t have internet on my phone. How did I get a charge?

I don’t have a data allowance or 3G / 4G on my phone. How did I get a charge?
Answer: Many premium rate services do not use the internet – for example, psychic chat services, football alerts and daily jokes.

Some services operate on a desktop computer, laptop or tablet and allow you to charge the purchase to your mobile phone account. They will ask for your mobile number and then validate your number by sending a text message to your phone containing a code. Other services may ask you to sent a text message to a short code to validate your number. In both cases, the screen that you see will contain all the details of the service you are purchasing including the price.

In most situations, you will receive a text message receipt soon after any purchase containing contact details for the merchant. Don’t be afraid to open this text receipt or call the merchant to ask for details of the service just purchased.

Next Step: Contact the merchant and request details of the service and how they validated your purchase. The service may have been accessed over Wi-Fi or may not require internet.

I think that someone is charging my bank account. What do I do?
Answer: Merchants operating services that charge you using your mobile network account do not have access to your bank account. Only your mobile operator can charge your bank account for telecom based charges. Any other party charging your bank account can only do so with your permission. If you have any concerns, speak to your bank.

Next Step: If you are receiving charges to your phone account that you wish to stop, ask your mobile operator for the contact details of the merchant and speak to the merchant.

If you have any text receipts, either follow the instructions in the receipt or contact the merchant using the contact details in the receipt.

I was charged when I clicked on the X symbol to close the site. What do I do? (false X?)
Answer: There should always be a way to exit the page without making a purchase. In some instances you must interact with the site but you should be able to exit the site. In some circumstances, exiting a site may lead you to an advert for another service. If you do not want to exit in this way, enter a different website address in your browser toolbar.

The government has produced a good website that explains this and other issues: www.cyberstreetwise.co.uk

Next Step: Contact the merchant using the details within the message if you’re unsure of why you have received it.

I bought something by accident. What do I do?
Answer: Some services offer a cancellation option within a few minutes of the purchase being made. If available, you can use this to cancel the charge within the specified time.

In other situations you may not have any right to a refund, if you opted out of the 14 day return policy at the time of purchase.

Next Step: Contact the provider and ask about their cancellation policy. They may not be obligated to cancel the purchase, but they may be sympathetic.

How do I get a refund?
Answer: If the purchase was legitimate, the provider may not be obligated to provide a refund.

Next Step: If you have a legitimate cause for complaint, contact the merchant and explain your circumstances.

I sent STOP, but still got charged. What do I do?
Answer: If it is a recurring subscription service then sending STOP should end the charging. If not, text STOP ALL.

If the messages are the result of one or more purchases, then the charges may have already been incurred. However, you may continue to receive receipt messages that have been delayed.

Next Step: If you believe that the charges are not correct, contact the merchant and have them explain the charges to you.

I just want to complain.
Answer: You have every right to complain, but before you register a complaint, you will be required to have followed the steps to resolve your concern with the provider of the service.

Next Step: If you don’t have the contact number of the provider from a text receipt, use the #NumberChecker to get the contact details of the provider of the service.