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Premium rate watchdog primes 'Miss Bimbo' probe

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The premium rate regulator, PhonepayPlus, will investigate Miss Bimbo, the controversial website for young girls that has been accused of promoting crash dieting and plastic surgery.

The virtual fashion game encourages players to become the "hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world".

The site falls under PhonepayPlus' remit because it offers premium rate text message services on top of its free website registration, which is available to anyone who'll say they are at least nine. Players text for £1.50 a pop to buy "Bimbo dollars" to pay for outfits in the game.

In a statement, the watchdog said:

In addition to issues around cost, our rules make clear that services should not exploit or provide content that parents are likely to think unacceptable.

We are looking into claims that the Miss Bimbo service might contravene these requirements. If any parents or children have views or concerns about this or any other service, they should contact us.

The PhonepayPlus site is here. The announcement comes as a rash of press reports reflect outrage from parents over Miss Bimbo.

The game's French sister site caused a similar kerfuffle when it launched there last year. It now has 1.2 million players.

Creator Nicolas Jacquart, based in London's Tooting, insists it is harmless fun. He told the local paper: "The breast operations are just one part of the game and we are not encouraging young girls to have them."

"It simply mirrors real life in a tongue-in-cheek way."

Miss Bimbogate sets the stage nicely for the release of the Byron Review tomorrow. Child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron has been charged by the government with investigating the effects of the web and videogames on young minds. ®

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