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Two Britons have been charged with allegedly fleecing punters accessing porno Web sites, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said yesterday.

Robert Green and Marilyn Shein - both British citizens - were charged under three counts of misrepresentation and wrongdoing.

In a statement the FTC said that Sark-based Verity International Ltd (Verity) had misused the international telephone billing system to charge consumers for "videotext" services, a euphemism for (Net-based 'adult' entertainment).

Tens of thousands of punters were billed an average of nearly $250 (£160) apiece for these services, the FTC said.

The FTC claims the punters knew nothing of the scam - until they got lumbered with the bill.

The wheeze appears to be that when punters downloaded a dialler program to access the porn, it disconnected their computer from their usual ISP and dialled an international phone number to Madagascar before reconnecting the "consumer" to the Net.

The cost of this flirtation came in at $3.99 a minute - but since the call was "short-stopped" in London or some other location, Verity was only being charged about eight cents a minute, and, no doubt, pocketed the difference.

That's some mark-up.

Thanks to a shed load of charges made against Verity the US District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday issued a temporary restraining order halting the alleged law violations and freezing the defendants' assets. Sounds saucy. ®

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