Are mobile providers doing enough to protect consumers from text scams?

Despite thousands of complaints from customers, it’s been reported that four major mobile networks in the UK are failing to protect against the threat of text scams. These scams, which are being sent to millions of consumers a year, allow companies to take, in some cases, hundreds of pounds from the customer for services that they often don’t know they’re signed up for. Many customers say that the service they’ve been charged for is for a company they haven’t even heard of.

However, these complaints don’t seem to be enough to stop the scams taking place. There have been thousands of reported cases, where customers have been charged by third-party firms, or have taken multiple payments without any consent. These charges, which work through “carrier billing” appear directly on the customer’s phone bill.

According to the regulator PSA (Phone Paid Services Authority), there have been thousands of complaints this year. Additionally, one provider, Tap2Bill, which is permitted to take payments from all of the UK’s biggest networks, was part of an adjudication carried out by PSA in 2016. But, following this, the firm was allowed to continue operating and didn’t have any restrictions placed on it. There have been over 13,000 further complaints about Tap2Bill since 2016.

Carrier billing is a system that’s operated by four of the UK’s biggest mobile networks: Vodafone, Three, O2, and EE. This type of billing allows consumers to pay for services or products through their mobile without providing any card details – a service which has been promoted as easier, safer, and more efficient than other payment methods.

However, it’s been found that this system can be abused. In order to take payments, firms are allowed to take payments directly if major networks give their number to a trusted third party. Customers content to this service when they initially sign up to the network and agree to the terms and conditions. The networks claim the payment system is secure; however, millions of customers claim it’s left them out of pocket, and have paid for services they haven’t used.

Consumers who are concerned that they’ve been a victim of these types of charges are advised to contact their mobile provider; or, if unsuccessful, to contact the company that’s taken the payment and request a refund. If they refuse, consumers should write to the company, saying that they plan to take them to a small claims court. Furthermore, to stop future charges, operators are able to place a “charge-to-bill bar” on the account.

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