Consumers get refund after premium rate misuse
Consumers who have called Scrappy’s Electronics’ 0900 number with an 80 cents per minute charge will receive a refund of the call charge within two months. They will not be required to claim their refund. OPTA, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority, will be publishing an announcement on this decision in the Staatscourant (the government journal). For the first time ever the regulator has used its authority to have consumers compensated for calling a fraudulent 0900 number. Chairman Chris Fonteijn comments: ‘Consumers should be able to rely on the fact that an 0900 number is bona fide. Although we realise that it’s not the telecom operators who are guilty of such misuse, we have requested them to compensate the call charges to their customers any way. This will undoubtedly lead to an administrative and financial burden for them but we believe public interest is more important. Therefore every penny must be returned to the consumer.’
Misuse by Scrappy’s Electronics
On the weekend of 22 November 2008 thousands of people received a fake invoice from Scrappy’s Electronics ordering to pay EUR 166.15. If they wished to inquire about this invoice they were referred to an 0900 number with an 80 cents per minute charge. Those who called this number were kept on hold for four minutes and subsequently disconnected. Consuwijzer, the consumer information desk, received numerous complaints and notified OPTA of this type of premium rate number misuse. On Monday 24 November OPTA ordered the service provider who is responsible for access to this specific number, to deactivate it. Furthermore, OPTA has instructed the service provider to refrain from remitting to Scrappy’s Electronics their earnings. On 28 January 2009 OPTA officially revoked the number. Still, the consumers were left with paying for a telephone bill increased considerably by these call charges. Since this is the first time that OPTA requests telecom operators to refund the charges, the regulator first conferred with the parties concerned. After all, even though the operators were not involved in this fraudulent scheme they would have to perform additional administrative duties. Eventually, OPTA decided to put the financial harm to consumers, their efforts to recoup it and restoring the consumers’ trust in 0900 numbers above everything else.
ConsuWijzer is the consumer information desk of the Dutch government. It is a collaboration of three regulatory authorities under the Ministry of Economic Affairs, namely the Consumer Authority, the Dutch Competition Authority and OPTA. ConsuWijzer has a website with information, tips, sample letters and a list of relevant organisations. You can also call ConsuWijzer at 080-0707070.