Step 2 – Getting a refund for charges already made.
Once you have successfully stopped the texts, it is time to set about getting a refund. Don’t expect your network to be helpful, but you can ask. If you get help please report it by leaving a comment below. There are reports of some networks arranging three way calls with these companies to assist customers. If they do this for you they are doing much more than they are required to do at this stage and deserve a pat on the back.
Getting your money refunded can be very simple or almost impossible. If the amount of money is small, you will probably get a refund from the ‘service provider’ without any problem. If the amount is larger, they will probably offer a partial refund. Don’t accept a partial refund!
Start as you mean to go on. You need to collect evidence, so record all calls, keep all texts and ask for confirmation in writing where appropriate.
The chances are that your network will not be in the slightest bit interested. The logical argument that they allowed the charge to be made and therefore should accept some responsibility won’t work.
So it is left to you to seek a refund.
Call the ‘service provider’ on the helpline number provided in the text. Make sure you record the call. Better still, if you have an email address, deal with the matter by email. The advantage of this is that you will have a clear record of what was said and what was promised. Be absolutely clear that you never consented to their charges and ask for proof of that consent. Ask for the following:
- Screenshots of the subscription workflow where you were alleged to have signed up for this service.
- A description of what the service you are supposed to have subscribed to provides? Is this a newsletter, access to a web portal?
- 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 you are with O2 or GiffGaff the subscription started after 11th May 2019, auditable proof of the additional authentication used (as required to comply with O2/GiffGaff rules)
- Full company details of the company operating the service, country of registration, full name of company, company number and registered company address.
- Details of the Accredited Payment Intermediary(API) which handled the payment
- Details of the company’s disputes procedure, including any ADR scheme you can refer the matter to if they fail to provide 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! Tell them that you want a full refund of all the charges made to your account. Different companies will respond in different ways to this request. Many of the slightly more reputable companies will admit that they hold no evidence, or at least that they had ‘technical difficulties’ and will proceed to make a refund by one of the mechanisms listed below. The reality is that, because it often takes weeks for consumers to notice these charges on their bills, by paying refunds they avoid complaints. This results in fewer complaints about their ‘service’ and consequently they are able to operate for longer before being closed down.
Other will insist that you consented to their charges and will steadfastly refuse to make any refund. Some will tell you to apply for a refund by email – to an address which never receives a reply. When emailing, request a delivery receipt and a read receipt. If you get these back, keep them as evidence.
If a full or partial refund is agreed it will not be credited back to your ‘phone account. This is an example of just how broken the Payforit system is. Money is taken from your ‘phone account. If a refund is agreed you would expect it to be credited back to the same account. But this is ‘not technically possible!’.
The refund is likely to use one of three mechanisms:
- A Paypal payment to your email address
- A text message sent to your ‘phone which has to be presented to a Post Office for payment.
- A bank transfer (you will need to provide the company with your bank details for this and you may not feel this is safe)
You are entitled to insist on a refund to your phone account. This right is enshrined in the Consumer Rights Act Section 45(3). If you want to be difficult you can insist on this. Additionally, section 45(4) of the Consumer Rights Act allows 14 days for the refund to be made once it has been agreed. Keep evidence of the agreement to refund and the date it was agreed and the method which was agreed. I wouldn’t advise giving any additional personal information to these companies, so the refund options are somewhat limited.
If all attempts to get a refund from the scamming company fail, you can then go back to your network. Present them with the evidence that you have attempted to negotiate with the service provider, but that say that you remain dissatisfied. Remind them of Mobile Operators’ Code of Practice for the management and operation of Payforit. Ask them to provide the support that this Code requires. If the scammer has failed to engage with you, failed to provide evidence of your consent to the charge, or if the contact information supplied doesn’t work, you may have case against your network. You will have done everything they asked you to do and it hasn’t worked! In these circumstances OfCom expect them to provide help and to make their own investigation. There is some evidence that the networks will make an ‘ex gratia’ payment to avoid bad publicity and avoid accusations of negligence.
If the network refuses to help you you will need to consider other courses of action. It is important to follow the process correctly in order to maximise your chances of success should the matter go to the Ombudsman, ADR or to the Small Claims Court.
Regardless of whether you are successful in getting a refund, there is still more for you to do!