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.”