Monday, February 27, 2006

Zed Staines mobile industry's reputation - The Inquirer

Content provider fined for no helpline

By Tony Dennis: Friday 24 February 2006, 08:45

IT USED to be called Sonera Zed. Now it's known as LaNetro Zed and claims to be the second largest mobile content company in the world with revenues of over €137 million in 2004.

Zed UK, however, has just been fined £25,000 for operating without a working helpline for two years.

Zed provides the usual stuff for mobile phone owners – wallpapers and ringtones. The problem is that users could run up a bill after their prepaid credit had run out. So Zed was collecting on past bills.

What this meant was that, for some people, sending the word 'STOP' to Zed's shortcode had no effect. The company continued to send premium rate messages to collect on outstanding debts. Worse still, it was charging interest on monies due.

Zed argued that if people went to its Web site, they could see that it would charge interest. However, many handset owners don't have access to the standard Web – only WAP.

The most shocking admission for a company basing its self in Staines (although its parent is Spanish) was the fact that its helpline hadn't worked for two years. Consequently, in addition to fining the company £25,000, the watchdog (ICSTIS) has told Zed it can't restart until its helpline is fixed.

The most shocking point about this case – which attracted complaints from 60 people who were actually able to find ICSTIS – is the Cavalier attitude of one of the industry's largest players. It beats even mBlox and the Crazy Frog for the 'you-should-have-known-better' award.

The INQ wonders whether this incident will attract the attention of Phil Willis, the chairman of the (UK's) House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. He's already seething that an industry gentleman's agreement not to market handsets to young children is being openly flouted. µ

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