- Consumers called premium rate numbers thinking they were contacting well-known organisations directly
- Some consumers charged over £100 for one call
- Fine totalling £645,000 issued to DK Call for breaches of the Phone-paid Service Authority’s Code of Practice
- Refunds ordered to all consumers who seek one
- PSA advises consumers to take care when searching for customer service helplines online.
Today, the Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) has issued a fine of £645,000 to a company found to have breached the rules protecting consumers from being misled into calling 09 numbers.
The company were operating a connection service using 09 numbers which were promoted using ads on search engines.
Consumers wanting to call well-known organisations such as Sky and HMRC, were instead connected via an 09 number at a cost of £3.60 a minute, plus their network’s access charge. The cost of a single call for some of these consumers was well over £100.
Many of the consumers who contacted the PSA complained that the service was misleading and that they were not made aware of the costs.
The PSA received 69 complaints about the company over the course of three months. Nearly 85% of customers were using their mobile to search online and then call the number.
Jo Prowse, CEO of the Phone-paid Services Authority, said:
“We want consumers to have confidence in phone-paid services. Where we find breaches of our rules, we take robust action.
“In this case, our investigation found that consumers were calling these numbers as a result of the company’s failure to provide key and clear information about the service.
“Consumers searching for organisations’ contact details clicked on links unaware that they connected to a third party and not the organisation they wanted.
“As a result, the company has been fined £645,000 and refunds have been ordered for all consumers who seek one.
“We encourage anyone using a search engine to look for a number to be aware that the first results are not always the organisation you are looking for. Be particularly wary of numbers for well-known companies that seem to be operating on 087 and 09 number ranges. There is likely to be a cheaper alternative.”
In response to concerns identified in this case, the PSA has issued the below advice for consumers when searching for numbers online:
· Take care to ensure the number you searched for is for the company or person you want to call and not a third party.
· Customer helplines often operate on 0300 and 0800 numbers.
· When using a search engine, the first results aren’t always a link to the organisation you are looking for.
· Beware of paid-for advertising links. These may be third-party services.
· Be wary of numbers for well-known companies appearing to operate on the 087 or 09 number range. They may not be the company you are looking for and may cost more.
· Connection services must make clear that they are a third party service. If you have concerns, contact the PSA.
Further details about the tribunal adjudication are available here.