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are premium rate calls illegal?



 
 
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Old June 26th 08, 10:25 PM
doblo doblo is offline
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First recorded activity by TelecomsBanter: Jun 2008
Posts: 1
Default are premium rate calls illegal?

Hi

All premium rate service charges should be stopped until the Government changes the consumer credit act, or BT changes its contracts with its customers and accepts liability for the performance of the service providers of the premium rate services.

Currently, when a consumer calls a premium rate number, they get billed by BT (or similar) and then BT pays the service provider their portion of the charge. But what happens when the consumer is dissatisfied? Under the act, the consumer can appeal to the service provider and get their money back.

But how much money? The service providers portion, or the whole cost of the call? And where does BT fit into this?

The consumer’s contract with BT states that BT provides the facility to make calls, and bills the customer for these calls. It makes no reference to the content of the calls (obviously – it would be unreasonable if every time I had an argument with someone on a standard call, I asked for my money back from BT!) Therefore BT is, according to their contract with the customer, charging the premium rate for the call – NOT the content of the call. So according to the contract between the consumer and BT, the consumer is liable for the full cost of the call because they were merely on the line.

In theory the consumer should complain to the service provider and receive their money back. But if the BT contract is valid, the service provider can legitimately say that their service was ‘free’ since the consumer used the BT service and was charged appropriately.

If I buy a tin of beans from a supermarket, and return it dissatisfied, the supermarket gives me my money back. They don’t tell me to contact the beans manufacturer and negotiate a refund (how much?) This works because the supermarket is taking responsibility for the products for which it made a charge.

BT is not taking any responsibility. In fact, if the consumer refuses to pay the charge for the call, or even a portion of it, BT reserves the right to take legal action to recover the unpaid amount. In court they would argue that the charge was for the call (ignoring content) and therefore due. If the court upheld this judgement, then a precedent would be set. If the court rules the consumer should contact the service provider for a full refund, then it is defining the contract between the service provider and the consumer is for the whole amount of the call. This means that BT has no right to charge for the call under their contract with the consumer – in which case the court cannot uphold the judgement.

The equivalent would be the supermarket alleging the charge was for the (dubious) privilege of walking around the supermarket, and the can of beans was free.

As consumers we have no effective rights under the consumer credit act for these services. They are therefore illegal and should be withdrawn.
 




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