George MacIntosh, a 73-year-old former vicar from Carnoustie in Scotland, has been charged £200 for premium-rate gambling texts that he had no idea he had signed up for. Given that he hardly every uses his phone and has no interest in gambling, his daughter was shocked when she checked his bills for the previous 12 months and discovered the texts - which had doubled his usual mobile phone bills.
His daughter Caroline, a 36-year-old digital manager from West London, told The Telegraph that she'd queried the bill with Vodafone, which said that he was being charged for 'TextPlayWin' messages from the number 88770, which were costing him £4.50 a week.
They explained that this wasn't a scam, but a legal service provided by a company called Zamano, which he must have accidentally signed up for at some stage when he responded to an initial text from the company.
He is not the first to fall foul of this technique. The newspaper reported that between October 2012 and September 2013, the watchdog (PhonepayPlus) had received 200 complaints about Zamano and another company offering a similar service, Gresham Mobile.
The watchdog recommends replying with the word STOP, which should halt your subscription. If for some reason that doesn't work, you can get hold of the company's contact details by running the number through PhonepayPlus's number checker. You can then contact them to demand that they stop. If you don't have any joy with this, ask your phone provider to block the texts, and report the company on 0800 500 212.
Next, you can turn your attention to the refund. Some providers set up forms which have a tick box with the instruction to tick it (or untick it) unless you want to receive premium-rate texts. This is their justification for sending the texts - but isn't actually enough for the provider to prove to the watchdog that you chose to receive the texts.
If this is what happened to you, keep the original text, use PhonepayPlus's number checker to find out the name and contact details of the company sending the texts, and make a complaint on the watchdog's official form. It will ask the provider to prove you signed up, and if there are any grey areas it will find in your favour.
It could be worse!
And while you may feel irked that you have been charged for something you didn't want and don't need, spare a thought for what must be Britain's most unlucky couple in this respect. In April last year Ron Hayward (75) and his wife Ann (72), from Reddish in Stockport, finally lost their Virgin TV service, after refusing to pay their third huge bill for on-demand pornographic films that they never watched.
The first bill struck in 2009, when they were charged £190. After their story hit the headlines, Virgin waived the charges and turned off live streaming. In 2011 on-demand was reactivated, and the same thing happened again: they were charged £500 and the bill was dropped. Then last April as a result of an upgrade it was activated, and they received another £200 charge. They refused to pay, and Virgin decided not to offer them TV services any longer.
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