Fine and refunds ordered for premium-rate text firm

A Russian company has been fined £50,000 by UK regulator PhonepayPlus, for serious breaches of its code regarding premium-rate phone services.

The company, Connect Ltd, trading as SMSBill, created an app for Android phones that provided access to games. When the app was installed, a text message was also sent from the phone to a premium-rate number. The phone owner was then charged £10 for an auto-reply message.

On the sixth page of the terms and conditions presented when the application was downloaded was a notice that "charges of about £5" would be incurred.

PhonepayPlus has now said all affected customers must be refunded within the next three months.

The regulator, which regulates services paid for by phone in the UK, said it had also received complaints from the public about the service. "Complainants raised a number of concerns, including lack of pricing information and charging without consent," it said in its adjudication of the case. It also found Connect Ltd had not registered with it, although this is not a legal requirement.

In addition to the fine and customer refunds, Connect Ltd must also submit any proposals for new premium-rate services to the regulator before launching them in the UK, Phonepay Plus said.

Spokeswoman Dr Shirley Dent added if the company failed to comply, PhonepayPlus could impose a larger fine or ban Connect Ltd from operating in the UK phone service market for up to five years.

The breach affects only Android phones, on which it is easy to install apps from spurious sources.

People affected by premium rate SMS scams should contact PhonepayPlus via

This story also highlights the importance of reading terms and conditions before agreeing to download apps, software or updates. For Get Safe Online's information and advice on accepting terms and conditions, click here.

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