Unwanted text tricked people to respondPremium rate watchdog fines firm £100,000

18 March 2008

A mobile phone

A crackdown on unsolicited text messages has seen one company pick up a massive £100,000 fine.

Premium rate watchdog PhonepayPlus described the breaches by service provider Netsize UK Ltd as ‘very serious’.

PhonepayPlus received complaints from phone users who had received a text message out of the blue stating, ‘There is a message for you. Text "Chat" to 89896 now!.’ 

When some people responded, thinking that a specific message had been left for them, they received another message saying they had subscribed to chat service at £1.50 a message and then within a minute content messages for the first week’s subscription totalling £4.50.

Block

In its adjudication, the watchdog said that not enough time had been given for people to block the charged messages by texting 'Stop'.

PhonepayPlus also criticised the service to for failing to explain in its free messages what the service was exactly and what you would incur charges for and it felt users had been misled by the unsolicited message in the first place.

The information provider, Unify Media Group, also failed to warn subscribers when they had spent £20 as required by the code of practice.

Poor value

PhonepayPlus imposed a high fine as it believed that the information provider had offered poor value and was reckless in its compliance with the code.

It also didn’t help that Netsize had had previous breaches of the code.

A spokesman for PhonepayPlus said that it had begun a crackdown on companies sending unsolicited text messages.

‘We are keeping a particularly beady eye open on this type of offence,’ the spokesman added.

Refunds

As well as the fine, a bar has been put on the service and users can claim back refunds on any money they spent.

Complainants will be sent a letter detailing how to obtain a refund, but if you have not submitted a complaint before, you should contact the service provider to claim a refund - details are on the PhonepayPlus website - and write directly to the service provider and supply a copy of the phone bill or mobile phone number.