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Vodafone fesses to premium rate SMS overcharging

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Vodafone has been charging its pay as you go customers an extra 12p for texting premium rate numbers.

Customers are usually charged 12p for the delivery of the message, and then the premium rate charge. However, it seems the mobile operator has been tagging on an extra 12p.

The overbilling came to light when a customer complained to an aggregator after noticing the SNAFU.

A Vodafone statement said: "Vodafone can confirm a charging issue affecting a number of our pay as you talk customers using premium rate SMS services. The issue continues to be investigated."

Vodafone could have been netting about £360,000 per week through the overbilling, if it affected all its premium rate SMS', less if it's only hit PAYG customers.

The question now is whether ICSTIS will come to the rescue.

The premium rate services regulator is geared more towards aggregators than the networks themselves, so if Vodafone is misbilling it may well get away with it, or be given the chance to rectify the situation.

An aggregator misbilling would inevitably lead to a fine, or worse.

Vodafone could, of course, remedy the situation and go through all its billing records and credit customers who have been overcharged. Whether it will or not is another matter.

The aggregators and content providers who utilise premium rate SMS may be unwilling to help sort out the situation, even though it's their customers who will be complaining. They do have a point as usually they are the first to get the "finger pointed at" and have to sort out billing issues very rapidly or get cut off from the networks - Vodafone is unlikely to cut itself off or stop providing premium rate short codes as they are hefty revenue generators - even more so it now seems. ®

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