Feeds

iPhone OS update sticks customers with premium call bills

Hard knock for Bubblewrap, Admob tie-up

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

A combination of failures has resulted in some iPhone users incurring premium-rate call charges, for calls they didn't know they were making.

Punters who downloaded the free, advertising supported Bubblewrap game from Orsome NZ have spotted the application calling premium-rate numbers, and incurring premium-rate charges, without warning. This was due to a combination of factors that conspired to create a nice little earner for O2, and demonstrate how much iPhone users are having to rely on trust these days.

Users of the free version of Orsome's Bubblewrap application started noticing unexplained calls to premium-rate numbers in December, though they were not frequent and hard to correlate with game sessions. Some posted complaints to the application store, some to the Who Called Me web site, but incidence was low and as the developer is based in New Zealand, he remained blissfully unaware until we got in touch.

Peter Watling, author of Bubblewrap, told us the blame must lie with the embedded advert engine from AdMob. Companies like AdMob provide a small chunk of code that developers can drop into their application. The code collects advertisements from the AdMob server and displays them to the user, with the developer then getting a cut of the advertising revenue. Most adverts are passive affairs, but some encourage the user to interact by tapping on the ad to jump to a website or place a call. Such actions should be preceded a warning dialogue, which is where things went wrong as AdMob explained in their explanation to the good Mr. Watling:

"Recently, we discovered that Apple changed the behavior in their OS where clicking on a link or ad that would launch a call did NOT generate a confirmation box and immediately started dialling. We weren’t prepared for this change."

It would appear, therefore, that the users complaining had accidentally tapped on an advert linked to a premium-rate number which had connected without warning because of Apple's undocumented changes the the iPhone. Except that AdMob isn't supposed to accept adverts linked to premium-rate numbers, so these adverts apparently slipped through that net too.

"We don’t run ads for premium numbers," the company explained in a mail to Orsome NZ, going on to qualify that by suggesting "international premium numbers are harder to detect since they may not be 1800 numbers."

AdMob claims they've fixed the no-warning bug, so users shouldn't incur any more phantom call charges, but the whole situation demonstrates just how complicated the mobile ecosystem now is. It's interesting to speculate who would be prepared to take responsibility if the problem had been more widespread, and how long we'll have to wait before we have an example that is. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
EE fails to apologise for HUGE T-Mobile outage that hit Brits on Friday
Customer: 'Please change your name to occasionally somewhere'
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?