Lesley from Manchester contacted me this week about her mobile phone bill for June 2019. Ordinarily, Lesley’s bills are around £40 per month so she was naturally shocked when she received her bill for June in the sum of £159. Upon closer inspection, she found that the bill not only included her usual tariff and call charges, but also included numerous charges levied by a third party (otherwise known as a Phone Paid Service). Sounds strange, but in fact it is perfectly normal for mobile phone providers to add charges to their bills on behalf of third parties. If you have a mobile phone, it is important that you understand how these third party charges work, so you can avoid being caught out like Lesley. Here’s what you need to know:
What is a Phone Paid Service?
Phone Paid Service is the name given to all content, goods, or services charged to a phone bill. Examples include: music subscriptions, games, donations to charity, voting on TV talent shows and dating websites. Rather than sending money via your bank or a credit card, your mobile phone provider acts like a bank, facilitating the payment via your mobile phone bill, often as a recurring payment.
Do I have to consent?
Yes, but as in Lesley’s case I am constantly hearing from consumers who either did not consent to a Phone Paid Service, or did so unintentionally. Often, when a consumer complains that they did not consent to a charge, it transpires that they did by clicking on a pop up ad or something similar. The third party company then sends a confirmation email or text in relation to the charge, but these are often ignored by consumers, or end up in your spam box. If you receive such a message and do not consent, simply respond with the words ‘STOP ALL’, following which the charges should stop.
I did not consent to a charge
If you find a third party charge on your phone bill that you did not consent to, you need to contact your mobile phone provider in the first instance. Inform them that you did not consent to the charges and that you want the payments to stop immediately. Your phone provider will then provide you with the third party’s contact details so that you can contact them to dispute the charges. Unless they can prove that you consented, they will have to refund any monies taken from you.
You could also consider informing your network provider that you do not want any third party charges added to your account in the future; make sure this request is made in writing.
Escalating a complaint
If neither the third party, nor the mobile phone provider deal with the issue for you, you should report the matter to the Phone Paid Services Authority (PSA) – www.psaauthority.org.uk. The PSA is the regulator of Phone Paid Services, which generally means they will not hear individual complaints, but it is still worth contacting them as they can often provide advice and assistance.