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Premium line complaints drop by more than half

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UK punters are more than twice as happy with premium-rate services than they were last year, according to the industry regulator PhonepayPlus.

The figures come with the regulator's quarterly report for the last three months of 2009, showing a major improvement over the same period of 2008 (pdf). Back in 2008, complaints about mobile services hit almost 5,000, while last year's quarter saw a shade under 2,000 punters calling up the regulator with their problems.

The vast majority of complaints were about mobile services, with less than four per cent being fixed-line services. Given the more-advanced billing platform available to mobile operators, that shouldn't come as any great surprise.

More surprising is that only 16 per cent of those mobile complaints were about "adult chat and date" services, which seems surprising given the quantity of such services and the revenue they generate. Perhaps punters are just happy with the service, or don't bother complaining.

12 per cent of complaints were about wallpaper and ringtone downloads - most of which will be regarding services that failed to make it clear that customers are signing up for a subscription when they download one ringtone, or those that failed to cancel such subscriptions on demand.

PhonepayPlus isn't without teeth when it comes to such practices, and handed out fines totalling almost £5m over the whole of 2009. Most of those got paid, but offending services that didn't cough up got their services suspended by way of encouragement.

Which was apparently enough for most complainants, as only 34 per cent of them bothered to claim the refund to which they were entitled. The amounts are generally pretty small per subscriber, and some of the scams rely on no-one bothering to complain, so it's good to hear that some people do bother, for the benefit of the rest of us. ®

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