Two firms who misled consumers by allowing their competitions to be promoted on websites with very similar web addresses to popular sites have been fined £100,000 each by PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services.
Premium-rate phone regulator PhonepayPlus said Amsterdam-based R&D Media Europe and Una Valley BV used typosquatted sites.
Typosquatters use misspelled versions of the web addresses of well-known brands. For example Twitter.com used the spelling twtter.com misleading those who incorrectly typed the URL into their browser.
In the two separate cases, competitions were promoted on sites that ‘squatted’ on addresses very close to popular websies, such as Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia.
The competitions promoted on these websites mislead consumers into thinking that they had won or could claim a prize, such as an iPad.
The landing pages for the “sqautted” sites were also made to look like they were genuine by utilising the same colouring, logos and fonts.
In both cases, one screen asked consumers to input their mobile phone number. Consumers then received a PIN number on their mobile phones to use to activate the website competition.
Once activated consumers began to receive texts to their mobile phones asking them quiz/survey questions, which they could text back to answer. They were subsequently charged £1.50 for each question received on their mobile phones as well as £1.50 to answer each question.
One person who filed a complaint said that their partner had been ‘was tricked into a service on youtube’ costing her £63.
PhonepayPlus' Tribunal found that that the providers had breached the Code of Practice as a result of promotions that had misled consumers and that had not provided clear information about pricing.
Paul Whiteing, PhonepayPlus’ Chief Executive, said:“These judgements send a clear message to providers that they cannot play on the public’s trust in well-known websites to promote services. We want consumers to continue to have confidence in the digital market place and we will do everything we can to ensure that they do. Most providers support us in this area as they recognise that this market will only grow if consumers have such trust.”
For more information visit the Phonepayplus website.
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