Saturday, June 13, 2009

Limit Premium Phone Service 'Sharks'

Everything is proportionate. Losing a million would knock most of us out. But not if you've got a billion. At the other end of the scale losing €2,000 can knock you out if you are living with just enough income to pay your way. Why then, are phone services companies allowed to literally fleece people - often taking those kinds of sums and more - in a totally legal way?

I am talking about premium phone line services which are very misleadingly advertised. Why do the advertising standards authority allow these phone 'draws' for example to advertise entry to their competition with a 'FREETEXT' voiceover, while in tiny writing sometimes not even legible to those of us with 20/20 vision, the true price is flashed on screen?

It would be easy to assume you are entering a free draw - unless you can read the small print.

The small print can indicate a cost of anything from €2.50 for 'textbacks' to €6 every 5 days etc.etc. This means they text you back - as many times as they like until you text back stop. Now while I have a problem with this type of service per se (I think they are sly, dishonest and badly regulated) I realise that many people like to take part. My point is that the true cost should be voiced in and obvious. Texters should know what they are getting themselves into upfront. Not in some miniature writing flashed onto the screen, in an obvious attempt to mask the real cost or to make it extremely difficult to even see.

This leads me on to other premium phone services advertising psychics, friendship or even relationships. Again in my experience the people who ring for these services are vulnerable. Some have been bereaved. Some are lonely or even depressed and ill.
Yet they are preyed upon by these phone line services who promise advice and friendship while all the while merely running commercial operations designed to keep callers on the line for as long as possible, thereby ensuring their own coffers swell while the callers can see themselves left with huge phonebills which they can end up having no way to pay.

I believe that these services again should 'say what they are'. They should not be allowed make false claims of having psychics, or single guys and girls and they should be sold as the 'entertainment services' that they are.
There should also be limits on what they can charge in any phone-billing two-month period. Some people need to be protected from phone sharks preying on their lonliness, need or lack of self-confidence. Some commercial operations should be limited in their ability to literally put their hands into the purses and pockets of the vulnerable.

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