When: 17 September 2015
Law stated as at: 9 October 2015
PhonepayPlus, the UK’s independent regulator of premium rate services, has issued guidance on the promotion of such services. This guidance aims to assist network operators and providers in understanding the requirements of the 13th code of practice which was unveiled on 1 July 2015.
The guidance deals with creating and using promotional materials and assessing the quality of third party promotional material relating to premium rate services, covering the following topics (amongst others):
- Setting out key information and promoting the service transparently – while different contexts may alter the specific information that the consumer needs to be given within a promotion, as a basic starting point, promotional materials should include details of cost, brand information, product/service information, how the premium rate service is delivered or used, how it is paid for (e.g. one off, recurring etc.) and how to get help where necessary.
- Pricing information – the cost of any premium rate service must be easy to locate within a promotion (i.e. close to the number or call to action), easy to read and clear. Loose or unclear descriptions (e.g. ‘premium rate charges apply’ or ‘100ppm’) are not acceptable.
- Freemium models (i.e. where a basic service is provided for free but additional premium services or features must be paid for) – it is possible to promote any ‘free’ element of the premium rate service, as long as the promotion clearly states what is and isn’t free so that the consumer is in no doubt when they opt-in to a service as to the nature of any premium rate elements and when such premium rates will kick in.
- Web-based promotion of premium rate services – key terms and conditions (including, vitally, the price), should be readily viewable; the user should not have to scroll further down (or up) a webpage or click to another webpage to see this information.
- Charity fundraising using premium rate services – details of the total amount per premium rate donation which is paid to the beneficiary charity should be stated (if it is not 100% due to VAT deductions or admin fees). Where this amount varies depending on the network operator, it is recommended that the minimum likely amount is stated.
Why this matters:
For businesses making use of premium rate services, it is important that the PhonepayPlus code is adhered to. The above bullet points give a very brief summary of some of the key advice, however the guidance goes into much more depth, and therefore it should be read in full.
It is also worth noting the not insignificant penalties for non-compliance with the code. PhonepayPlus can investigate non-compliant service providers and refer them to a tribunal which has the power to order refunds to consumers, ban providers from running premium rate services and/or impose fines up to £250,000 per breach of the code.