14TH ANNUAL CHOICE
10 OCTOBER 2019
Premium Mobile Services Industry
Shonky for Premium Rip-off* goes to... Premium Mobile Services Industry
This one's for all you faceless companies who deliberately trick consumers (including kids) into costly content or even subscriptions they never wanted. The Telecommunications Ombudsman receives more than 2000 complaints a month about mobile premium services – ringtones, games, horoscopes, chat services, age-restricted and other content you can access by calling numbers starting with 19.
However, the fine print* usually reveals that these messages can cost several dollars a pop, or that by accessing one you're automatically signed up for a subscription, and may be sent further unsolicited messages at additional charges.
Unsubscribing, or contacting the provider is often very difficult, with recorded messages and auto-reply emails instead of customer service. Children and teens are prolific users of these services, and have been signed up for subscriptions costing hundreds of dollars, or been exposed to inappropriate content.
That's why an honourable mention goes to the telco industry association, the Communications Alliance for failing to set up proper consumer protection. While there's a code of practice, the number of complaints shows it's not working – a very shonky case of industry self-regulation.
* Individual Shonkys are provided with maximum outrage. Accepting this Award constitutes a subscription to all future Shonky Awards.