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Probe launched into mobile downloads

Review of ringtones and games follows complaints

A probe has been launched into premium services for mobile phones following a surge in customer complaints.

Premium rate watchdog PhonepayPlus says its investigation will cover mobile ringtones, games, downloads and other premium rate services.

The watchdog has received more than 4,500 complaints relating to mobile services in the first three months of 2008 alone.

That’s a 40% increase on the same period last year.

Customer complaints

Which? has welcomed the probe. 

We’ve received a steady stream of complaints from consumers who felt they’d been tricked into a subscription to a costly mobile service, thinking it was just a one-off.

Last year PhonepayPlus ruled on 33 mobile services, handing down fines of more than £360,000.

But, just four months into this year, it has already dealt with 19 services resulting in fines of more than £290,000.

The PhonepayPlus probe will examine unsolicited promotions, especially text message promotions, as well as the use of words that suggest content is ‘free’.

It will also examine subscription services such as ringtones and investigate how effective the ‘stop’ text command is, once you have a service you don’t want.

Clear rules

PhonepayPlus chief executive George Kidd said: ‘There are clear rules when it comes to the promotion, content and delivery of mobile phone paid services. We expect these rules to be followed and any failings of compliance will be punished.

‘PhonepayPlus will work with all interested parties to understand the issues, examine the evidence and, if necessary, propose solutions.’

Which? technology expert Ceri Stanaway said: It’s alarmingly easy to sign up unwittingly to premium rate mobile services – the wording used and information given can be very confusing. 

‘Even if you do knowingly sign up you can rack up costs that are much higher than you expected. We welcome this investigation and hope it will result in consumers receiving greater protection in this area.’

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