If you’re reading this it’s probably because you’ve been “subscribed” without consent to a “service” charged for through your phone bill. Often these “services” will make weekly charges to your account.
Three are undoubtedly the worst network for these scams. They get more than their fair share of them and are particularly unhelpful to customers who fall victim to them.
Additionally Three UK have the distinction of being the only UK MNO that doesn’t allow you to place a “charge to mobile” bar on your account, which would protect you from these scams.
Three may offer to put a “premium rate bar” on your account, or to apply a spending cap. Don’t trust them! Neither of these will protect you from these scams. As long a you remain with Three, you will be vulnerable to these scams.
What to do First
Your first step should be to stop any further charges being applied to your account. Usually this is done by sending a “STOP ALL” text to the five digit number associated with the “service”. You should get a reply to this text telling you that you are unsubscribed. Keep the sent text in case you need it as evidence.
Once you have stopped the charges, you can turn your attention to obtaining a refund and complaining to the regulator. The text message telling you about the subscription should have contained a phone number for the scamming company. You need to contact them, but it’s probably better to ask for an email address and deal with the matter in writing. Try to get a suitable email address for the company and prepare an email telling them that:
- You never subscribed to their service and wish to complain that they have charged you without consent (contrary to the PSA Code of Conduct)
- You require a full refund of all the money taken. If you have incurred additional costs, for example in sending the STOP text, you should explain this and add it to your claim.
Send the email to the scamming company. Try to obtain a delivery receipt and a read receipt. Also ask for an acknowledgement of receipt in your email.
With a bit of luck, you will obtain a refund as a result of this email.
If a refund is refused, reply to them telling them that you require proof of the contract that they claim existed between you.
Insist on the following:
- Screenshots of the subscription workflow where you were alleged to have signed up for this service (as they were at the time of your alleged subscription).
- A description of what the service you are supposed to have subscribed to provides. Is this a newsletter, access to a web portal, a competition? How would it have been accessed if you had used it?
- Any evidence that after supposedly signing up for the service, you actually used it
- The complete web server log of the subscription, including the User Agent strings containing all device details (browser, device type, device IP address) together with dates and times.
- If the alleged subscription started on or after 1st November 2019, auditable evidence that the PSA rules regarding two factor authorisation have been followed.
- Full company details of the company claiming to have a contract with you, country of registration, full name of company, company number and registered company address.
- Details of the Accredited Payment Intermediary(API) that handled your payment.
- Details of the company’s disputes procedure, including any ADR scheme available to you should they refuse to give you a full refund.
Remember that under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, the burden of proof rests with the service provider and not with you. You don’t have to prove you didn’t subscribe, they have to prove that you did!
Warn them that if a refund is not received legal action may follow.
You will often discover that the company you are dealing with is based outside the UK, beyond the jurisdiction of the UK courts. All is not lost! Turn your attention to the Accredited Payment Intermediary(API) which handled your payment. Tell them that you have attempted to deal with the “third party” company directly, but that they have been uncooperative.
The APIs invariably have a UK presence and are supposed to ensure that the companies which use their “services” obey the rules.
You should also complain about the scam “service” to the regulator, the Phone-paid Services Authority. https://psauthority.org.uk/for-consumers/report-an-issue
IF you have followed all of these steps and have still not obtained a refund, you will need to consider whether you are prepared to take legal action. Full information is here.