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Call connection service fined £645,000 after misleading consumers

Monday, April 10th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A company has been fined £645,000 after it misled consumers into using an expensive call connection service.

The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) issued the fine to DK Call for breaching consumer protection rules.

The company had been operating a connection service promoted using ads on search engines.

Consumers wanting to contact organisations including Sky and HMRC were instead connected via an 09 number and charged £3.60 a minute on top of their network’s access charge.

Some callers were charged more than £100 for a single phone call.

Between September and November 2016, the PSA received 69 complaints from consumers who said the service was misleading and that they had not been made aware of the costs in advance.

The majority of customers had used their mobile to search online and then call the number, thinking they were calling the organisation they wanted to contact directly.

Jo Prowse, chief executive of the PSA, said DK Call has been ordered to issue a refund to all customers who ask for one.

“We want consumers to have confidence in phone-paid services. Where we find breaches of our rules, we take robust action,” she said.

“In this case, our investigation found that consumers were calling these numbers as a result of the company’s failure to provide key and clear information about the service.

“Consumers searching for organisations’ contact details clicked on links unaware that they connected to a third party and not the organisation they wanted.”

'Be wary'

The PSA is advising consumers to look out for paid ads when using a search engine to find a phone number as they may be third-party services.

“Be particularly wary of numbers for well-known companies that seem to be operating on 087 and 09 number ranges,” said Ms Prowse. “There is likely to be a cheaper alternative.”

Customer helplines often operate on 0300 and 0800 numbers.

Third-party connection services must make clear the nature of the service and be up-front about the costs involved.

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