EU probe targets online ring-tone scams
Most European sites selling ring-tones and wallpapers to mobile phones are suspected of deliberately misleading customers.17 July 2008
BRUSSELS - Most European internet sites that sell ring-tones and wallpapers that can be downloaded to mobile phones are suspected of misleading customers and of breaching European Union rules, officials in Brussels said Thursday.
The EU executive, the European Commission, coordinated an investigation into more than 500 websites across the 27-member bloc, as well as in Norway and Iceland.
It found that 80 percent of the sites checked did not appear to comply with EU rules designed to protect consumers. The largest number of potential offenders was found to be in Britain, Romania and the Czech Republic.
Common irregularities include deliberately targeting children by using cartoon or well known television characters, and providing misleading pricing information.
Many websites also pretend to offer their services for free while instead locking customers into expensive long-term contracts, the probe found.
The total value of the European ring-tones market is estimated at EUR 691 million.
The investigation was prompted by a vast number of complaints and will now have to be followed up by national regulators.
In the meantime, consumers were being urged to carefully check the small print before signing up to such services.
"Far too many people are falling victim to costly surprises from mysterious charges, fees and ring-tone subscriptions they learn about for the first time when they see their mobile phone bill," said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.
[dpa / Expatica]