Where: United Kingdom
When: July 2016
Law stated as at: 1 August 2016
PhonepayPlus, the UK’s premium services regulator, unveiled a number of new measures in July 2016.
On 12 July the regulator announced that it was changing its name to the Phone-paid Services Authority and adopting a new statement of purpose.
From Autumn 2016, their new purpose will be “The UK regulator for content, goods and services charged to a phone bill“. The new name will be adopted at the same time.
David Edmonds CBE, the chairman of PhonepayPlus, outlined that the aim of the change of name and restatement of the purpose was to “explain our role clearly for consumers while reflecting and supporting competition, innovation and investment“.
Then on 20 July PhonepayPlus published guidance on digital marketing and promotion following its public consultation on guidance for the premium rate service (“PRS”) industry launched in February.
PhoneplayPlus state that digital marketing and promotions enable marketers to use online platforms to generate revenue, drive innovation and allow consumers to engage with PRS.
They go onto say that some methods used by PRS providers are legitimate and can comply with the PhonepayPlus Code of Conduct (the “Code”). These include banner ads, pop-ups, search engine optimisation and adware.
However, there are certain practices which are capable of misleading consumers if they are not treated with care. These include:
- Typosquatting – the practice of registering an internet domain name that is a deliberate misspelling of a well-known brand. PhonepayPlus indicate that the following are examples of typosquatting – “Dacebook” instead of “Facebook” and “Twtter” instead of “Twitter”. This practice could mislead consumers and could be a breach of the Code.
- Clickjacking – this is also known as “user interface redress attack” or “UI redress attack” and is where a user clicks on a disguised or obscured link and is redirected to a different website, which they had no intention of visiting.
- Likejacking – a similar practice to clickjacking using social media functions
PhonepayPlus states that those who provide PRS must comply with the Code and, in particular, ensure that they emphasise transparency, fairness and privacy when providing their services.
For example, banner ads should not include inducements which contradict the actual product or service offered on the PRS site. In addition, PRS providers should not mislead consumers by using the meta-tag “free” on SEM and SEO unless the free element of the service is made clear to the consumer. If there is no free element to the service then the practice is likely to be interpreted as unfair and will breach the Code.
PhonepayPlus also give guidance on how to manage relationships with affiliate marketers, lead generators and other digital marketing partners.
The guidance highlights that it is the PRS provider who remains responsible for ensuring that digital promotions comply with the Code. The PRS provider must therefore put measures in place to ensure that the affiliate marketer complies with the Code.
The absence of such measures may be interpreted by the PhonepayPlus Tribunal as a failure of the PRS provider to properly assess the risks of using an affiliate marketer. PhonepayPlus emphasise that PRS providers must undertake appropriate due diligence on affiliate marketers and this guidance gives a non-exhaustive checklist of appropriate due diligence.
Why this matters:
This new guidance will give PRS providers and marketers some useful assistance when planning and operating digital marketing and promotions. Although the guidance does not necessarily introduce new concepts, the examples given in the new annex provide marketers with some useful context to apply when interpreting the recommendations.