Mobile marketing scams

vodafone logo Mobile marketing scamsI am spitting feathers.  Worse – it is a long time since I have been so angry.  Those who know me will recognise that I don’t usually blow up but today I did.  And when I do, it is best to take cover.

Why?  Who is it that has made my blood boil?

Vodafone.

We have just upgraded our phones and that is fine.  Maria has an iPhone 5 now and I sport a Samsung Galaxy Note 2.  Very nice.

Even better we have registered for some discount as Maria works at the university.  We didn’t know about that until the helpful people in the Vodafone shop in Manchester told us and copied most of the data from our old phones etc.  That discount should save 20%.

So it was a bit of a shock when I checked the bill at over £143 this month!  What?  How was that?

I know Maria had been in Poland and Bulgaria but there is a EuroTraveller facility so for £2.50 a day plus VAT, all calls and internet access are taken from the domestic allowance.  And the Note 2 was more expensive than my previous Galaxy S2.  All the same, that should account for £35 at the most.

But 140 quid was at least £10 more than I expected.

So I checked the account, which in itself is not an easy thing to do as the Vodafone website seems to be designed to make it difficult.

On 3rd July there were a series of shortcode texts, 3 charged at £0.10p and one at £2.08 plus 3 Information Services at £1.25!  These are unsolicited mobile marketing exercises.  In addition our son has managed to connect his phone to the internet and used over £4 of bandwith over his allowance – that’s another issue that has been dealt with!!!

When I checked the unbilled account, there were two more £2.08 texts from the same numbers one and two weeks later.  So in all, £10.30 plus VAT will have been filched from our bank.  For nothing.

Now I know that Maria wouldn’t have asked for these.  She isn’t a Personal Finance blogger for nothing and there would be a short trip to the divorce courts if she had!  (Just joking sweetie!).  I asked her what happened and she said that she had filled in some online survey – then started getting these texts.  She didn’t ask for any messages, specifically told them she didn’t want any and didn’t respond to them.

Now it is a cardinal rule with email spam that you don’t respond.   And on a mobile phone, if you respond, you will probably be charged.  So I always delete them and haven’t had any problem.

But in this case I saw red.  I rang Vodafone – only their system was ‘down’ – twice.  I do wonder about their computing systems – it makes bank computing look good.

I left it until later this afternoon and rang again, only to end up in a queue so I asked for a call-back.

When it came, I was appalled.  The standard response was – well we didn’t initiate the calls so we can’t do anything about it.

What?  No – we can’t reveal numbers because it’s a data protection issue.

Rubbish.  Complete and utter tosh. 

They can’t stop the calls, can’t remove them from my bill, and to stop then I have to text STOP to the numbers?

Excuse me.  My contract is with Vodafone, not some scam-mongering advertising agency.  It is on my bill with Vodafone.  They can stop it and remove the item from my bill.  They can filter out any such entries and bounce them back to the sender.  It isn’t rocket science.

Why?  Because otherwise they are party to the fraud.

They are allowing some scam-monger to call my number and then bill me VIA VODAFONE’s SYSTEM.   They are allowing access to my bill on their system.

I asked to speak to the manager and somehow the call was cut off.  Funny.

I immediately filed a complaint on the UK Information Commissioner’s website and calmed down.

Then I rang Vodafone again and asked for another call-back.

This time I got someone a little more reasonable and I went through the same rigmarole, explaining what had happened and that Vodafone was allowing their system to be abused.  She did credit the charges but also repeated that I would have to send a STOP message. Well it was some progress I suppose.

I went back to the Information Commissioner’s website and noted a link to the premium rate phone regulator website, PhonepayPlus.

I filed two further complaints on that site, detailing the numbers that had called, the dates and times.

And calmed down.  At the moment that is all that I can do.  I certainly am not playing the text game.

I do apologise to the poor Vodafone operatives who got the rough edge of my tongue – I am sure they are not responsible for the ‘systems’ with which they had to work.  I did try to make this clear at least to the second operator with whom I spoke but the first one disappeared, I hope not in a flood of tears.  It really isn’t their personal fault.

What sort of system is it that allows a third party to send unsolicited texts that cost many pounds to receive?

When mobile phones came out, you sometimes ended up paying to receive calls.  When roaming – a frequent occurrence in Europe – you still end up paying when someone phones you (although that is being stopped next year, thanks to the European Commission :-)).

But getting marketing texts that you never asked for?  Too much.

I am sure this is not unique to Vodafone but they have the unhappy privilege of being our mobile supplier.

The sooner this is stopped the better.  I am not holding my breath but will keep you informed.

Have you been victim of such practices? Do you have a regulator? Are they any good or just another pointless quango paid for by the industry to placate the consumer?

4 thoughts on “Mobile marketing scams”

  1. I did get some unwanted signups for stuff I did not want on my credit card. They did reverse it after I asked them to. I do not have a smartphone yet, but I apparently need to be vigilant with the bill once I do.

    1. It’s not because of having a smartphone, @KC. This scam applies to any phone that can receive texts! With smartphones you have to be careful about internet access as well.

  2. Mobile phone scams are rampant in Canada. Or, I don’t know if they are called scams if they are done by real, large companies, but they scam you out of your money. They recently put a cap on how much they can charge you for certain things but we’ll see how far that goes..

    1. I guess there are scams everywhere. They have racks of computers dialing out numbers sending these messages, just like buck shot. If they get a response – whether it is STOP or anything – it just confirms that there is a person at the other end. I don’t know what the answer is but I spent a couple of hours yesterday talking to Vodafone, trying to work out what was charged and when and then filing complaints to the websites. It is a disgusting waste of time. I do recall one person in the UK who, getting nuisance calls, told the perpetrator that he would send them a bill at so many £ a minute then kept them talking and sent them a bill for many £1000′s. He had to go to court but won the day. It’s the only thing they understand I think.

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