An infant's 'tap' cannot be abinding contract


YOUR CONSUMER QUERIES:LATE LAST MONTH, Eleanor McCarthy got a text message from 57756 telling her she was subscribed to some service and that the charges were €4.50 every five day.

“I am not aware of ever subscribing to such a service,” she writes. She did get some random unsolicited texts from something called “cuddlytv” periodically over the last month or two, which she ignored. “Today was the first time I was told of any charges and that to unsubscribe I should text back ‘stop’ which I did. I then checked my bank account which was okay, but my O2 bill was unduly high and there was €36 worth of charges from this premium number.”

She rang O2 and was told they accept no responsibility for the charges “or feel any duty to care towards me, their customer. Conversations with ComReg proved fruitless so far. It seems they have been ineffective in their ability to legislate against this – and while new legislation is pending, it is still three or four months away.”

She rang the contact number for the originator of the text – but could only leave a message. She says she suspects the problem started when her four-year-old was playing a game which our reader downloaded from the app store and a banner appeared on the screen which she “tapped” into.

“This ‘tapping’ appears to be acceptance of some ‘subscription’ to which I am liable to pay fees for. I have to say that this in no way should it be deemed a contract for services. When downloading or buying an application from iTunes, you have to input a password, when paying with visa or laser you are protected with a pin number. O2 and other mobile providers should not be able to charge me for an unsolicited text. And the act of someone inadvertently tapping on the screen should not result in such a subscription. My two-year-old could even have done this,” she writes.

She says she believes O2 is wrong in its assumption that she has to pay these charges. “They say I have to pay and seek a refund from the W2Mobile Company and that ComReg can ‘help me’. It is O2 who is making the payment to this w2mobile company, possibly taking a margin for themselves, and seeking the full amount from me.

She points out that she “signed no piece of paper, entered no pin or password in relation to this subscription”.

“How can O2 allow such charges on my bill. My bank, for example, would require me to sign a direct- debit mandate or standing order with a company who wished to take money from my account – why are there no systems or similar procedures in place to protect me, my bill and ultimately my money?”

She says that she is “not paying anybody anything that I did not agree to – and just because O2 is a lot bigger than me, doesn’t mean that I should have to. Why is O2 indifferent about this situation, why is ComReg so powerless and ineffective in their role?

“Why are the mobile operators sitting back and letting this happen?”

3's free iPhone offer doesn't add up

A READER BY the name of Fiona from Stoneybatter in Dublin got an unsolicited sales call from our friends at 3 Mobile late last month. Everything started well and the caller delivered all the patter about how good a customer Fiona was and how she paid her bill promptly and so on.

Then came the lure-in. Our reader had switched to 3 Mobile about eight months ago and was given an iPhone 4 for free once she agreed to a 24-month contract which she had no problem doing.

“Now, this guy was offering a iPhone 4Gs for free in exchange for a new 24-month contract and that the existing mobile could be given to relations or friends,” we were told.

The conversation went on for a long 20 minutes but all was not as it seemed. “The sell was that you would sign up to a new contract for 24-months with a new phone, while still having to fulfill the 24-month contract on your own phone. There was a constant stream of sales patter. But no explicit explanation that you had to sign up to two contracts. The only clue given was his line that it was not an upgrade.

“But saying that without explaining its implications was misrepresentation in my view.”

Apparently there was “oodles of patter”, most of it confusing “and maybe deliberately so”. The 3 Mobile caller said the company would also supply a pay-as-you-go Sim for the second phone.It was only when he was repeatedly quizzed as to whether the old phone would be Sim-free and free to use on any network that he finally revealed the truth – that what he was asking Fiona to do was sign up for a second simultaneous contract.

“I am sure there is a minority of people who would be happy to get an offer of a free phone for their spouse or relative. But what they should say is we can give a friend of yours the same kind of deal that you got. Not a hard sell trying to get you sign up to a second contract that you don’t need without telling you that your are signing up to two simultaneous contracts.”

Sound savings  at Arnotts'

RECENTLY WE REVIEWED headphones and raved about a pair from Sennheiser. We had found them selling for a price of €39.90. Margaret O’Brien from Dublin went into town with the article in hand and found the headphones in Arnotts. She says it is “a great place to try out earphones as they are all out on display and can be plugged into your own phone for comparison”.

So far so good.

The only thing was they had a price of €49. She brought the article to the attention of the sales assistant and “immediately, and I might add extremely courteously, the sales guy said, ‘fair

enough, you can have them for €39’. I have queried prices on occasion, but I have never had such a response. Not only that, but the whole shopping experience in Arnotts was a pleasure, one that I would recommend to your readers.”

Kudos, then, to Arnotts.