Positioned independently, COCASE is in a unique position to offer market insight, ensuring the protection of consumers in a healthy business environment. We are always happy to help.
What are premium billed services?
Consumers can chose to pay for certain goods and services from app stores, third party publishers and merchants via their mobile phone bill. Such mobile phone charges are also known as Direct-to-Bill, Operator Billing or Direct Carrier Billing. Premium billed services use this method to collect payment from their customers.
Premium billing allows the purchase of apps and purchases within a free app (for example upgrading to a higher level or the purchase of lives or coins within games). The expiry of a free trial period for a service can also automatically convert into a subscription to that service resulting in payments being charged to the consumer’s phone bill.
Who regulates premium billing and what rules govern how services are operated?
There are strict rules governing the use of premium billing for content, goods and services charged to a mobile phone bill. In the UK, the regulator is the Phone-paid Services Authority or PSA (previously known as PhonepayPlus).
The Phone-paid Services Authority released the 14th Code of Practice on 12th July 2016, which was approved by Ofcom in accordance with the Communications Act 2003 on the same date. The code is comprehensive and it covers the entire premium billed services marketplace. All promoters must adhere to the Code of Practice on all matters. Details of the services that can be run and the charges that can be made can be found within the Code of Practice.
What are the different methods companies can use to make charges to a mobile phone bill
There are several methods by which a phone-paid services provider can enable charges to a consumer’s bill. These range from SMS shortcodes, Charge to Mobile (Operator billing, Direct-to-Bill or Direct Carrier Billing), Payforit (PFI), Google Play or through fixed line numbers. Details for each method can be found here.
How to identify where charges originate and who to make contact with about a service
The mobile network provider facilitates the charge to a consumers phone account on behalf of the promoter/phone-paid service provider but doesn’t own the service. The PSA regulates the premium billed industry but is not responsible for charges to a consumer’s phone.
The first step for consumers wanting to query charges appearing on a mobile bill is to identify and contact the promoter / service provider who made the charge. It is their responsibility to explain the service and any charges made. The PSA number checker may help identify who this is and how to contact them.
COCASE acts as the independent query resolution service and point of consumer contact for its partners. We welcome new partners who must commit to operate services according to the COCASE Charter. New partner enquiries from Service Providers may be directed here.