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EU sweeps up dodgy ringtone companies

70 per cent of sites breaking rules

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An EU investigation found that 70 per cent of the 554 ringtone sites examined were breaking the rules, resulting in 54 of them disappearing.

The figures aren't quite as bad as they appear - the sweep was directed by national regulators who earmarked sites they suspected of breaking the EU rules on visible pricing and traceability - but they still kept the EU busy for a while.

The investigation was part of the EU's ongoing enforcement of regulations which focuses on specific industries - last time it was airline tickets, this time it's ringtones - to see if EU requirements are being adhered to. It seems that an awful lot of sites selling ringtones aren't compliant.

Hungary, Romania and Austria topped the charts with 21 sites each that failed to properly indicate pricing or provide suitable contact information. Meanwhile Ireland, Portugal and Slovakia couldn't come up with a single site that broke the rules, despite the regulators suggesting 15 or so that might be of interest.

The UK's Office of Fair Trading managed to propose 43 suspect sites, but only 12 of those turned out to be in breach of the EU's rules when investigated by the UK regulator PhonepayPlus - most of the rest being defunct. But five of those investigated turned out to be cross-border operations, which is where EU-level support is needed.

Most of the sites just modified their information when contacted by the EU, though 54 disappeared and two couldn't be contacted (the EU or local regulators then takes these up with the host), but the Italian regulator took a stronger stance and fined nine companies a total of €2m for failing to provide the correct information.

Most of us laugh when we see "free" ringtones or similar, but many people are still getting snagged by this kind of thing and the cross-border nature of many of these companies requires a Euro-wide approach. ®

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