Psychics Live firm to refund customers

 

REALM COMMUNICATIONS, which operates a number of controversial premium rate mobile phone services, is to pay “substantial” refunds to thousands of consumers who made complaints to Regtel, the independent regulator of premium rate telecommunications services.

Under the terms of a settlement it reached this week, Realm will refund some users of its Fone Credit and Irish Psychics Live services and has also undertaken to revise its premium rate service to ensure it complies with Regtel’s code of practice.

Last year Regtel announced its intention to suspend Realm from sending messages for 12 months over several alleged breaches of its code of practice in connection with its mobile phone credit services, FoneClub/Mobile Mania.

In making its ruling, Regtel said prize draws run by Realm involved attempts to mislead customers and were unlawful. The regulator Pat Breen said key words in messages were “utterly confusing”, promotional messages were unclear, there was a failure to inform consumers properly of the true pricing and it was difficult to unsubscribe.

Realm immediately appealed the suspension to the High Court where it was fast-tracked to the Commercial Court. Turlough O’Donnell SC was appointed as a mediator in the dispute.

Although Irish Psychics Live was not part of the original adjudication made by Regtel, or Realm’s subsequent legal proceedings, the service, which costs €2.40 a minute, has been the subject of a considerable amount of controversy. An “amicable resolution” has been reached that will see the company take “immediate steps” to ensure it complies with the industry code of practice.

It will also “provide a refund to a number of users of this service”, Regtel and Realm said in a joint statement issued yesterday.

Under the watchdog’s code of practice, a ceiling of €60 is set for calls to the service after which calls should be automatically disconnected. Realm is to refund users of the service who spent in excess of that on a single call.

An industry source told The Irish Timesthat “substantial rebates will now be paid to thousands of consumers”.