Rip-off text firm is fined £600,000 in victory for our campaign against nuisance messages

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The result is a triumph for The Mail on Sunday, which has campaigned long and hard for an end to the scourge of customers being charged to receive nuisance texts


Rip-off text firm is fined £600,000 in victory for our campaign against nuisance messages

A company that allowed partner businesses to rip off mobile phone users has been fined £600,000 in a milestone victory for customers caught up in a widespread text-messaging scam.

The result is also a triumph for The Mail on Sunday, which has campaigned long and hard for an end to the scourge of customers being charged to receive nuisance texts they did not want or ask for.

Veoo is a platform that makes it possible for ‘premium rate service’ providers to send videos, games or information via text to customers, and then add charges to their mobile phone bills. But it allowed eight premium rate providers to charge customers without their consent.

The result is a triumph for The Mail on Sunday, which has campaigned long and hard for an end to the scourge of customers being charged to receive nuisance texts

While it is customary to fine the companies that provide a service, it is unusual to sanction a company that operates the overall platform.

Veoo was issued with the fine – triple the size usually applied to companies flouting the rules – last week by the regulator, the Phone-paid Services Authority.

It was also determined that Veoo knowingly overstepped the mark and the regulator has banned it from the market for two years. 

Veoo was criticised for its slack approach to ensuring customers wanted the texts they were paying for, with one director declaring to the regulator’s tribunal that ‘compliance does not float my boat’.

This case highlights the need for customers affected by rip-off texts to make their voices heard. More than 800 complaints to the regulator helped trigger the investigation. Unwanted services delivered to phones included games and pornographic videos.

The eight companies involved were separately investigated by the regulator between September 2015 and September 2017. 

Individual company fines were issued along with orders to refund customers.

The premium rate message scandal has dragged on for years – with customers receiving junk texts to their phones only to later find out they have been paying up to £4.50 a week to receive them.

Texts come from a ‘shortcode’ number often made up of five digits. Sums charged are low but regular, so the total monthly mobile bill taken by direct debit does not always raise customers’ suspicions.

The Mail on Sunday has heard from many customers who discovered a trail of charges they didn’t know they were paying going back months or even years.

The Phone-paid Services Authority told The Mail on Sunday it urges consumers to check phone bills regularly, request refunds directly from a company that has billed them and complain to the regulator if they experience problems. Chief executive Joanne Prowse says: ‘This is a significant case which sets an important precedent for the market.’

To find out which company is behind premium rate texts sent to your phone, use the service checker on psauthority.org.uk.

 

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