Social media users of Facebook and Tumblr could be set for refunds after an application from Nobinet was found to contain misleading information.
The application promised users that it would enable them to see who had viewed their profiles, whereas it actually redirected them to a competition page, promising a great deal of prizes.
When on this page, users were encouraged to register their top scores and to compete for the prizes by entering their phone numbers, which resulted in them signing up to a £4.50 per week subscription service.
PhonepayPlus, the regulator of premium rate phone services, gave Nobinet Ltd a formal reprimand and has told the company to refund any customers that are affected.
That is on top of a £45,000 fine for using misleading marketing information to drive people towards the competition pages.
A warning to all phone users
The move highlights the need for users to be careful when using phone apps that they are unsure about and which may have hidden charges.
Several complaints were made about the app, with many parents saying their children were being hit by the charges.
Phonepay Plus said details were buried in the small print of the app, making it misleading to those who were using it.
Spokesman for the regulator Patrick Guthrie said: “Consumers were tricked into signing up for this service by misleading digital marketing.
“Most affiliate marketing services follow the rules, but this case should be a warning to consumers to take care following adverts that then require them to enter their phone number online.”
The regulator will contact people who have complained directly about it and that they will be offered a refund.
Other customers who believe they have been affected but did not complain to Phonepay Plus should check their statements for recurring payments before lodging a complaint.
The regulator was unable to confirm an average amount that was being refunded, but said that Nobinet has to fully refund any customers who claim a refund within 28 days.
If unusual payments are spotted, it’s important to contact your phone provider as they will be able to reference and explain the charges.
Protecting yourself and your details
Protecting your phone number is almost as essential as protecting your bank details in a lot of cases, as it has a direct link to your account.
Managing finances for direct debits can be done via the use of a prepaid card – which prevents any overspending and can be regularly checked.
A prepaid card limits spending to the amount on the card at any given moment and is not directly linked to a bank account making funds safer.
For those with concerns over their funds, transferring some to a prepaid card can also help to control spending, as only the sums on the card can be spent.
However, the cards can be topped up if necessary and can be replaced if they are lost or stolen without funds being affected.