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SMS subscription service fined $125,000 in New Zealand

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Apr-2010 12:22

From Stuff today:

"The television commercials failed to adequately disclose that, by sending a text to answer the initial question, participants were entering into a premium SMS subscription service, where they would receive five text messages per month charged at $3 per message received,'' the commission said."

This is more evidence that people have been "subscribing" to things without really knowing they were entering into a contract. Mobile operators here were vocal in protesting their innocence before, saying people willingly subscribed to these "entertainment" services.

However it seems clear that some of these companies fail to disclose subscription charges. The same type of problem was reported before by Facebook users who didn't get enough information about being "subscribed" to a service when adding a new application to their profile in the social network site.

I've read and heard of cases where people purchased brand new prepay numbers, which already had ongoing "subscriptions", which should point to people leaving their numbers to be recycled by the operators, which would just pass the number on without proper "desinfection".

There are plenty of cases on Geekzone, but each and everyone were greeted with a "the user subscribed to the service". Which could be the case, but was it an informed decision?

Mobile operators also say they keep the service providers under control, and any breach of their terms of services means termination of contracts. But it's evident that this is continuing to happening. I can only guess people calling to complain about this kind of problem usually reach an overseas-based help desk that's measured on number of calls taken and greeted with a "I am sorry, nothing we can do, our systems are broken right now, we can't see your SMS, you have to contact the content provider directly, anything else we can do for you? Thank you for calling, goodbye."

I wonder how much of the calls going through help desks are actually monitored to capture real problems as they happen? I know for example that calling a fixed line broadband provider and asking "I am having a problem, my neighbour is having similar problem, do you know if there's a fault in this area?" usually gets a reply of "I don't know, we don't track this information", which is exactly the opposite of I would expect them to do.

Anyway, back to SMS subscription services... Some are the real thing, but scams abound. Be careful when you send a SMS to a number you see on TV. Those messages in font size 5 only flash for one second or two.



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Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

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