Anthony Carroll, the man from the excellent FreshPlastic blog, has been championing the cause of the consumers against some of the worst abuses of the less scrupulous premium-rate operators for some time now. We’re delighted to bring you his story…. this is part 1 of a series.
Hi, I’m Anthony and I have anger issues. Fortunately they’re focused towards those that operate premium rate SMS services (PRS) and those that regulate that industry. I also set aside a pinch of anger towards mobile operators. Other than that I’m generally a happy bunny. Okay, maybe not happy Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but content.
What’s not to like about PRS and PhonepayPlus? Where do I begin? How about the regulator’s ridiculous name? Who thought that was a good idea? How did they come up with that? Was it in-house or did they pay an agency a shedload of cash? Either way, it’s terrible. Do a Family Fortunes’ Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwe asked 100 people’ and I’d put Ã¢â‚¬ËœDouble Money’ on just a handful of people knowing who they are and what they do (actually I think I’m being generous there).
What’s in a name anyway, as long as they do a good job, right? Alas, they don’t excel there either. At least if my own personal experience and observations are anything to go by…
Until February this year I had no reason to contact PhonepayPlus (the artist formerly known as ICSTIS). But then one day I received a text message from Tracey (if that was her real name, which it wasn’t as Tracey isn’t real). In her text she told me that her friend Katie (again not real) informed her that I was lots of fun and asked whether I’d like to chat. Being single, you would think that’s the kind of text I would want to receive but, of course, neither of these ladies were real.
The tale tell sign that my message from Tracey wasn’t a message from a Tracey (other than a fact that I don’t know any Traceys) was what the rest of the message said: Ã¢â‚¬ËœOpt-out send STOP’, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ£1.50/msg’ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœVIP 0871789089′. I thought nothing of it at the time as to me it was just spam. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t paying for it, right? Wrong!
Fast forward to April and I noticed I had been charged for the message, to the tune of £1.50. Nor was I alone, The Independent ran a piece about Spread Media on the 30th March. My operator, 3, told me that there was nothing they could do, nor did they have any responsibility when it came to the matter. I was told to contact the spammers for a refund. PhonepayPlus’s advice was the same… text back Ã¢â‚¬ËœSTOP’ and ring the offending company’s 0871 number for a refund.
I decided against ringing as, quite frankly, I didn’t trust them. To get a refund I would have to give them my name and address. Didn’t seem a particularly good idea, not worth it for the £1.50 owed. They were stopped from operating PRSs shortly after, but not for long…