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EE customer charged £170 for service he didn't know he was subscribed to

Thursday, September 15th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

An EE customer has paid more than £170 for a premium rate mobile service he had no idea he was subscribed to.

David Cox (pictured) has been charged £3.33 every Wednesday for more than 12 months but only noticed a few days ago.

The charge comes from Mobile Academy (also called Mobitrans), a company that provides online learning services.

Cable.co.uk first reported the issue a year ago, with several EE customers saying they had unwittingly subscribed to the service and been charged a weekly fee.

Mobitrans’ CEO Joost Goeree said at the time that subscriptions are started when users click on promotional banners shown in apps and on websites.

The company has since told Cable.co.uk that it stopped actively promoting its mobile services to EE customers in the UK “late last year” and so “it is not possible that consumers on the EE network are still able to sign up”.

But customers who had already been subscribed – but hadn’t noticed – could still be in for a shock.

Mr Cox, from Luton, said he’s been charged more than £170 in total but has never authorised anyone to deduct such a fee from his account.

“I had only realised last week when a query on my phone bill resulted in customer services at EE informing me of this charge,” he said.

“I have been in touch again with EE regarding refunding the charges but they have continually directed me back to Mobile Academy.”

He said he has also approached Mobitrans directly to ask for a refund but is yet to receive a reply.

A spokesperson for EE said Mr Cox had to follow a two-step sign-up process in order to opt into Mobitrans' services and that he received regular texts reminding him of his subscription.

The advice from other affected customers on Twitter and on the EE forum is that EE or Mobitrans will generally offer a refund – but only if you are persistent enough.

Ben Bell, from Surrey, had a similar experience with Mobitrans last year and has since spent 13 months investigating the issue.

"EE have refunded me a 'goodwill gesture' but admit no fault. Mobitrans offered me a refund after many, many emails during which they refused point blank, offered me a 50% refund, then finally relented.

"Mobitrans and EE are claiming that these customers have authorised payments, which the customers deny. My understanding of consumer law, as backed up by conversations with the CAB, is that a company cannot simply take money, refuse to provide any adequate evidence when challenged and then place the burden of proving the negative on the customer.

"It is even worse that, when the customer takes up that challenge, they find the process for doing so is long and tedious, requiring a lot of time and chasing, and is full of dead ends."

Adam Bujalski, Mobitrans’ head of customer care, said the company has always adhered to the strict guidelines set by mobile operators and bodies such as PhonepayPlus, which regulates premium mobile services.

“Despite our continuous efforts to make our promotions as clear as possible and sending out text messages to confirm a subscription and remind end-users every month, our company and the (regulated) sign-up process for our type of mobile services are still referred to as a scam or fraudulent,” he told Cable.co.uk.

“This is simply a false statement. Our company is not subscribing people against their will.”

Mr Bujalski said subscribers are sent a text message reminder each month that explains how to cancel the service.

He said anyone wishing to unsubscribe should text ‘STOP MACADEMY’ to 80206 or call Mobitrans on 0208 779 0598.

A spokesperson from PhonepayPlus said: “PhonepayPlus looked into the Mobitrans service Mobile Academy late last year, including working with EE.

“Following this work, the service was no longer regarded as being an ‘own-portal’ service and therefore, subject to European law, the service would fall under PhonepayPlus’ regulatory remit.

“Consumers who feel they wish to complain about a premium rate service should first contact the service provider. If this does not resolve the matter, they can contact PhonepayPlus, who will look into the matter.”

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