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World Consumer Rights Day 2014 – Mobile phone rights

14 March 2014

World Consumer Rights Day’s focus on 15 March this year is on mobile phone consumers’ rights. Under PhonepayPlus' Code of Practice consumers are entitled to expect six key rights when paying for digital goods via their phone bill.

We also have advice on how to avoid the worst scams. In the last year, PhonepayPlus has fined companies and ordered customer refunds in cases like a scam that tricked jobseekers and home hunters into phoning premium rate numbers and another that misled consumers with online games and vouchers spread via Facebook.

With more and more people making in-app payments or signing up for online services that are paid for and delivered to their smartphone, consumers need to know how to get their rights if something goes wrong.

Under PhonepayPlus’ Code of Practice, consumers who use PRS services on their phone are entitled to expect:

  1. Legality – services must comply with the law.
  2. Transparency & Pricing – users need to be fully and clearly informed of all information that would influence a purchase before any payment is made.
  3. Fairness – consumers of services are treated fairly and equitably.
  4. Privacy – that services do not unreasonably invade consumers’ privacy.
  5. Avoidance of harm – that services do not cause harm or unreasonable offence.
  6. Complaint handling – complaints must be resolved quickly and easily by the provider responsible.

Consumers can find advice on protecting themselves from phone scams on PhonepayPlus’ website:

Where it sees failures to meet the six Code outcomes PhonepayPlus takes action to protect consumers:

  • PhonepayPlus cut off a mobile malware attack after Trojan apps entered app stores charging UK consumers £15 every time the app was opened. PhonepayPlus then fined the company that allowed the app to charge consumers £150,000. PhonepayPlus’ quick action on mobile malware was recently credited by a security company for the relatively low mobile malware rates in the UK. More details.
  • Fake vouchers on Facebook offered £250 for well-known brands such as Tesco and Asda if they were shared, these spread quickly across the social network. Clicking on these vouchers led to charged for quizzes users didn’t want to enter. PhonepayPlus fined the companies responsible £450,000. More details.
  • Job hunters who had been sent an email saying they had been selected for a phone interview were billed 50p a minute. When they phoned the number given they were held on the line without knowing they were being charged. No jobs existed. One complainant reported a £130 bill. PhonepayPlus took action and fined the company responsible £120,000. More details.
  • An online Pac-Man game that misled consumers was fined £45,000 after players, including children, received charges. Consumers were told that if they obtained the highest score they would be entered into a draw to win prizes, including iPads and Playstation 3 consoles. More details.