A Netherlands-based company has been fined £250,000 and banned from operating in the UK for a record eight years after duping consumers with a text message quiz competition.
JJP Mobile B.V. sent spam texts and emails to consumers without their consent, marked correct answers as incorrect and failed to show evidence that prizes existed, the UK premium rate regulator PhonepayPlus said.
The regulator's independent tribunal also found that the company had provided misleading information to investigators.
Those caught out by the service said they received personalised text messages or emails asking them for yes or no answers to questions such as "giggling is also known as laughing?"
A message sent to consumers in the lead up to Christmas said "Win £500 Xmas shopping voucher" despite the draw not taking place until the following June.
One consumer reported running up a bill of £70 while others complained of bills of around £40.
The regulator also found that JJP Mobile B.V. had not put the company name on the text messages, a requirement to allow quick identification.
PhonepayPlus director of operations Joanne Prowse said: "JJP Mobile failed consumers and it is now paying the price.
"The record eight-year prohibition and £250,000 fine demonstrate how seriously we take companies trying to take advantage of consumers.
"Consumers who are being charged for messages they don't recognise should use our Number Checker at phonepayplus.org.uk to identify who is charging them."