5/6/2009 12:23:00 PM
Premium rate texts under fire as complaints to consumer watchdog surge
Mobile marketing companies are being investigated by regulators for charging consumers for text services without their knowledge.
The move comes after customer complaints increased by 108% over the last year.
PhonePayPlus is launching an investigation into three numbers, after consumers were hit with unexpected charges for services they had not signed up to. The numbers 83023, 88066, 87448, which are owned by mobile marketing company 2ergo, were flagged on online forums after appearing unexpectedly on phone bills.
The investigation coincides with a consultation run by consumer watchdog Consumer Focus into the mobile industry, including phone paid services, which began last week.
Consumer Focus said: ‘The growth in phone paid services has been accompanied by a rise in related complaints. PhonePayPlus received more than 8,000 complaints in 2007 to 2008 – a 108% increase on the previous year. The difficulty that consumers are experiencing when opting out of premium rate services is a particular concern, and Consumer Focus would like to see greater transparency around the way they are marketed and provided.’
Earlier in 2009, PhonePayPlus issued new rules stating that service subscription providers charging over £4.50 per week must receive confirmation from their customers before connecting the service. The 2ergo service charges £3 per week, so falls outside that category.
Operators work with the providers of paid entertainment for mobile phone users on a third-party basis. T-Mobile, Vodafone and Orange said they use aggregators to ensure consumer protection, but it is the company’s responsibility to refund the user.
2ergo said the numbers 83023, 88066 and 87448 are ‘shared’ short-codes, which are rented from the mobile networks and used by multiple clients. 2ergo sales director Damian Hanson said: ‘Consumers should always be made aware of the service details, costs and how to leave through the reminder messages, which are sent on service initiation and then at least once a month.’