Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Third Party Billing (loosely ham radio-related)

I'd like to pass on a little warning to anyone who has a mobile phone and/or internet service - which means just about everyone these days.

I recently found out, through a minor fraud on my mobile data box account, that third parties are able to charge against that data account.  Just about all communications providers have this clause, and are quick to justify it in that some people donate money to charity using this system (which is how texting a number appearing on a TV screen achieves this aim.)

Whilst it's clear in the contract that this can happen, and I had seen it before signing up, what isn't clear is that third parties intent on ripping you off can come in from nowhere and start running up large bills on your innocent data account. 

This, in effect, is a back door to your bank account, with premium rate services you've never heard about, let alone agreed a contract with, typically adding between £4.50 to £9 per week to your charges!  A simple click might suffice to form a contract (though not a fair, lawful one), in some cases.  Even though the practice is dubious at best, unlawful at worst, your chances of bringing a case against someone sitting in a bedroom in China are remote, to say the least.

A number of online discussions note that several UK comms companies created the organisation - PayForIt - that facilitates these third party transactions.  Certainly, there appeared to be a very intimate and immediate realtionship between EE and PayForIt when I contacted them to try and stop this fraud. 

Whilst EE told me I had to cancel these odd contracts, they curiously were able to stop future payments in one case, and refunded most of the other money taken after some persistence.  So, whilst they tell you they must pay the third party, they also acted in my case to stop paying them.  It's all very cosy and inconsistent.

In short, with some robust legally-worded letters sent by recorded delivery to EE's headquarters, I managed to put an end to this and get most of my money back, though I didn't lose much.

What you need to do is ensure that, if you don't want some dodgy companies forming a contract against your data/internet/phone account, and then taking you for an expensive ride, then you must contact your provider(s) and tell them you want third party charging - all of it - blocked.  Most do this immediately on the phone, or you can change settings on your account online.  But, beware any existing third party charges, as you need to personally cancel these first. 

As with any contract, it's best to get confirmation in writing when you take out a contract that third parties cannot charge your account. 

Most of all, take charge and issue, if necessary, the provider with your own, written, recorded delivery modification to the contract stuffed into your hand when you buy a data-capable device.  Don't just feel you have to be subject to what the providers write down.  Just make sure you then have confirmation the provider has accepted this!

Go check your contracts right now!

No comments:

Post a Comment