Text quizzers fined and given record ban
A company that ran a text message-based quiz competition that charged unwitting customers up to £70 has been fined £250,00 and handed a record eight-year ban by the UK premium rate regulator.
PhonepayPlus's independent tribunal found that Netherlands-based company JJP Mobile B.V. had sent spam texts and emails to consumers without their consent, marked correct answers as incorrect, failed to show evidence that prizes even existed and provided misleading information to investigators.
After months of forensic investigation, the regulator identified JJP Mobile B.V. as the company behind the service.
Consumers told PhonepayPlus they had received personalised text messages or emails asking them questions that simply required a yes or no answer. These included simple questions such as "Is Steve Jobs the CEO of Apple?" and "Giggling is also known as laughing?". However, JJP Mobile didn't always credit recipients for correct answers.
A message sent out in the run-up to Christmas said "WIN £500 Xmas shopping voucher" but the draw for the prize wasn't until the following June.
Consumers caught out by the texts reported bills of around £40, while one person found they were £70 out of pocket.
The regulator found that JJP Mobile had not put its company name on text messages – something it is required to do under PhonepayPlus' rules.
The tribunal described the company's failings as "very serious" and ordered it to repay all consumers who had made a complaint to the regulator.
Commenting on the case, Joanne Prowse, director of operations at PhonepayPlus, said: "JJP Mobile failed consumers and it is now paying the price. The record eight-year prohibition and £250,000 fine demonstrate how seriously we take companies trying to take advantage of consumers."