PhonepayPlus (the UK's premium rate telephone regulator) has fined two firms a total of £450,000 for running a series of voucher scams on Facebook.
The scams, which claimed to offer free vouchers and supermarket gift cards for Tesco and Asda, resulted in members of the public signing-up for expensive premium-rate phone services.
Australian firm mBill Pty and Amazecell Limited, based in Israel, were judged by PhonepayPlus to have run deliberately misleading promotions on Facebook.
In both cases the services took advantage of social networkers’ trust in what their social media friends ‘share’ or ‘like’. In these two cases, consumers would see that their friends had ‘shared’ a particular promotion. These promotions included the promise of a voucher worth up to £250 for major retailers, including Tesco and Asda.
In some cases, misleading content was automatically posted onto consumers’ Facebook walls without their knowledge.
After clicking on the promotion consumers were misled into participating in premium rate competitions. Consumers believed that these were stages towards receiving the promoted offer and did not realise that by entering their phone number they would be charged.
Victims charged £5 per question sent to their phone
In the Amazecell case, consumers were charged £5 per question sent to their phone. Consumers were subsequently charged for further questions regardless of whether or not they answered them.
Over 89,000 consumers entered the service only once but were sent a second question for which they were charged.
PhonepayPlus’ Tribunal found that the companies had breached the Code of Practice by misleading consumers and not providing clear pricing information. Amazecell Ltd was fined £300,000 and mBill Pty Ltd was fined £150,000. Both have been ordered to refund any consumer who requests a refund.
Read more about the fine on the PhonepayPlus website.
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