PhonePayPlus: The dinner lady of the UK mobile industry

PhonePayPlus is the proverbial dinner lady in the mobile industry school playground.

Nominally known as the premium rate industry regulator, they typically hand out fines to companies that have made a huge, huge amount of money from spamming the mystified UK population — and who, have conveniently costed a fine into the profitability matrix.

I describe PhonePayPlus to anyone who enquires as one of runt dinner ladies. The dinner lady that, despite the huge sign saying KEEP OFF THE GRASS outside the Headmaster’s office, will strategically ignore the 14 or 15 ugly oversized teenagers sprawled across it. That’s because, earlier in the term, she once walked over and insisted they get off the grass — to which the teenagers just stared briefly at her and then carried on listening to their headphones.

So the PhonePayPlus dinner lady continues to patrol the school playground and conveniently ignores all the bollocks going on until whilst, now and again, putting some of the teeny kids — the ones who haven’t learnt that disobeying has next to no effect — in detention.

The mobile industry in the UK is completely screwed in the context of premium billing. How is it possible for me to get an unsolicited text like this one…

Fun Facts Alert

… INSTRUCTING ME to reply STOP if I’m not interested?

Where’s the register that allows me to unsubscribe from all unsolicited bollocks like this? And I mean a register that works and is adhered to by anyone sending marketing messages?

Why isn’t there a differentiation made between folk who send you marketing texts and service text messages?

If I’m a hairdresser and I want to text you with an appointment update — that’s entirely non-premium, right? So when I sign up with a mobile aggregator, I should choose the NON PREMIUM option.

If I want to make money from a premium marketing service, shouldn’t I have to sign-up for a different account — that, when I send messages out — runs them through a country-wide ‘unsubscribe and don’t market me’ list of numbers before the promotional messages are even transmitted?

It’ll never happen.

So I’ll just keep getting woken up by stupid texts like that one.

And until the country moves away from the money making CASH COW that is the premium text messaging scam.

And by the way here’s the latest ineffectual news from PhonePayPlus:

– Prior permission: providers offering mobile subscription services charging over £4.50 in any given week or applying pay-per-page charges on the mobile internet must first apply for permission from PhonepayPlus;

– Active confirmation: as part of the prior permission undertaking, any consumer joining a subscription service must first receive a free confirmation text message detailing the cost and conditions of the service. The consumer cannot be charged until they have confirmed their subscription by replying to that text.

Will this change anything? Yeah. The ‘nice’ providers will observe it. But everybody else? Nah.

Watch as the naughty kids on on the grass don’t even bother looking this way.

Those new rules, by the way, are off the back of this:

PhonepayPlus’ review of the premium mobile sector was prompted by a worrying 108% increase in mobile-related complaints received from 2006/7 to 2007/8. This was accompanied by anecdotal evidence of consumers, including young people, being charged several thousand pounds in some cases as a result of bad practice by content and service providers.

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4 Responses to PhonePayPlus: The dinner lady of the UK mobile industry

  1. cro January 22, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    I've always found that if you ring up companies like this and ask where they got your number from, and when you (as a consumer) explicitly opted in to receive such messages, they mysteriously stop. One such company gave me a time & date for an opt-in once – and backed right down once I noted that my mobile account had no such matching entry – a record held by the carrier, not me, so independently verifiable.

    I do agree that PhonePayPlus don't seem that efficient at discouraging this kind of thing though – I deal with such annoyances directly, even by chasing through domain registrations to find the parent company, or calling the shortcode provide directly – works wonders.

  2. sarahkeefe January 23, 2009 at 4:41 am #

    Ewan, you're right. Is this strong enough? PhonepayPlus has to deal with the problems of the old Premium SMS based services but give the operators their due for introducing Payforit and trying to make it clear what people are paying for. The UK mobile content industry should be forced to use Payforit and rid the industry of the sort of abuses that we are still seeing.

    The pioneers of open, customer care – Bango – has a common register for end users who want to opt out of mobile services. They go to http://bango.net on their phone and can see all the Bango powered subscription services they have signed up to and can easily cancel any if they want to. We are not suggesting this should be the central register – but it would nice if it was!

    Regards,
    Sarah Keefe, VP Marketing, Bango
    http://bango.com

  3. sarahkeefe January 23, 2009 at 5:41 am #

    Ewan, you're right. Is this strong enough? PhonepayPlus has to deal with the problems of the old Premium SMS based services but give the operators their due for introducing Payforit and trying to make it clear what people are paying for. The UK mobile content industry should be forced to use Payforit and rid the industry of the sort of abuses that we are still seeing.

    The pioneers of open, customer care – Bango – has a common register for end users who want to opt out of mobile services. They go to http://bango.net on their phone and can see all the Bango powered subscription services they have signed up to and can easily cancel any if they want to. We are not suggesting this should be the central register – but it would nice if it was!

    Regards,
    Sarah Keefe, VP Marketing, Bango
    http://bango.com

  4. sarahkeefe January 23, 2009 at 10:41 am #

    Ewan, you're right. Is this strong enough? PhonepayPlus has to deal with the problems of the old Premium SMS based services but give the operators their due for introducing Payforit and trying to make it clear what people are paying for. The UK mobile content industry should be forced to use Payforit and rid the industry of the sort of abuses that we are still seeing.

    The pioneers of open, customer care – Bango – has a common register for end users who want to opt out of mobile services. They go to http://bango.net on their phone and can see all the Bango powered subscription services they have signed up to and can easily cancel any if they want to. We are not suggesting this should be the central register – but it would nice if it was!

    Regards,
    Sarah Keefe, VP Marketing, Bango
    http://bango.com

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