PhonepayPlus, the regulatory body for all premium rate phone-paid services in the UK, has ordered two Amsterdam-based companies to pay a fine of 100,000 pounds each and to refund the users that they mislead into subscribing to costly services.
The two companies, R&D Media Europe and Una Valley BV, are owners of two sites hosted on “typosquatted” domains wikapedia.com and twtter.com, and took advantage of the users’ “fat fingers” and eagerness to win bogus prizes to lure them into sharing their contact details and answering some questions.
The pages, which look very much like the popular Wikipedia and Twitter websites, didn’t provide clear information about the prices of the services, the BBC reports, and were designed to give visitors the impression that they would receive prizes in exchange for the shared information.
Unfortunately for them, the only thing they would receive were costly text messages with additional questions and surveys. If they responded, they were charged 1.50 pounds per message, and the price of the received message was also debited from their accounts.
“These judgements send a clear message to providers that they cannot play on the public’s trust in well-known websites to promote services,” Paul Whiteing, PhonepayPlus’ CEO, commented the decision.