UK premium-rate mobile phone services, offering ringtones, downloads and games, are going to have to watch their backs. Industry regulator, PhonepayPlus (which sounds very much a premium-rate mobile service itself if you ask me), has said that it will be closely examining the practices of these service providers following a surge in complaints from consumers.
PhonepayPlus revealed that it received more than 4,500 complaints about mobile content in the first three months of this year – a 40% increase on last year. It has already doled out £291,500 in fines – nearly as much as in the whole of 2007.
Most complaints surround the highly liberal use of the word ‘Free’ on adverts when they actually mean ‘Pay us quite a lot of money’. Subscription services are also catching flak for adamantly refusing to STOP, even after you jump through the various hoops to ensure that the service stops.
I think most people know that these premium rate services will stoop to any dodgy practise they can think of to milk more money from hapless consumers. However, if you’re daft enough to sign up, perhaps you deserve everything you get.
There is a flipside to this whole argument too: PhonepayPlus actually used to be known as ‘Icstis’. It had a name change after getting a serious hammering over last year’s TV phone competition scandals. Perhaps a new over-zealous attitude is partly because it is trying to save itself some face?
Hopefully it won’t matter either way: if Orange is to be believed, premium-rate phone downloads are on their way out anyway.