Premium rate services are those ads you see offering free phone credit, competitions, celebrity gossip, weather updates and news/sports details as well as ringtones and pictures. They are essentially subscription based services which charge a lot of money for every text you get from them (which can be one or 2 per day). They have often been criticised for their charges and how they acquire customers. Many of us have received them and then suddenly noticed large bills or no credit left on our accounts. This is followed many times by a long drawn out process to get our money back once we’ve finally managed to unsubscribe from the services.
The companies that operate PRS include Modeva Interactive and Zamano Plc and they make big money from providing these services. So much that they even have their own representative body called Phone Paid Services Association Ltd, which represents more than 50 of these providers. Comreg (the communications regulator) has been involved in discussions with these companies since 2010 on a new code of practice. Like any “block” trying to protect it’s income the PRS companies have fought against any (customer orientated) changes to the code including going all the way to court to get an injunction before Comreg got it overturned. They sight the death of the industry (I wont be crying if that happened) if the new code of practice came in. The most significant aspect of the code (and the one the PRS companies feared most) was the introduction of a double opt in process.
Before the new code came in if you replied to a PRS text you’d be signed up but Comreg wanted to bring in a double opt in system. The flow chart below offers a full explanation but to summarise: you contact the PRS company, the PRS company contacts Comreg who send you a pin code which the user then enters on the PRS’s website, the PRS company passes this code on to Comreg for verification who, once verified, contact the PRS company to say the pin has been verified and the end user begins to receive the subscription service they’ve signed up for. It may sound convoluted but at least it’ll avoid accidental sign ups and heavy bills. The full details of the new rules can be found here:
If you have issues with PRS companies then your first point of contact should be the Phonesmart website operated by Comreg to deal with them.