Blog Archive

15 August 2008

Reverse Charge SMS: Daylight Robbery

As you should already know, I recently got an iPhone and switched to O2 for my mobile contract. I got my first online bill two days ago and noticed it was more than I thought it should be. I’d not exceeded my call or text allowance. Nor had I exceeded my unlimited data usage either. Was I being screwed by some kind of Jesus Phone Tax? Thankfully not...

After drilling down through five pages of my online bill for more details, I found the charge was for a “Premium Text” sent by 81404 to my mobile on 25 July 2008 at 22:03:18. For the pleasure of receiving this message, I had been charged £1.277 + VAT (i.e. £1.50). I’ve never signed up for anything using my mobile, so this was completely unsolicited. I vaguely remember receiving this message and just deleting it because I assumed it was good old free-to-receive-spam. It definitely didn’t say I’d been charged for receiving it.

I’ve just called O2 to get a refund and the customer service representative suggested I could have “mistyped a number” or “accidentally pressed some keys” while the phone was in my pocket. (He even told me that he knows how easy it is to do this because he’s done it himself!) I explained that the iPhone doesn’t have any keys and that it would be pretty much impossible to send a text message to 81404 by accident, so he was a bit stumped for ideas and put me on hold.

When he came back, he told me the name of the company who had sent the message and gave me a number for them so that I could ask for a refund and said that there was nothing more he could do because I’d entered into a contract with this other company! I explained again that I’d not requested the message and that my contract was solely with O2, who were taking the money from my bank account. He replied with the call-centre-classic: “I’m sorry you feel that way.” To which I replied that it wasn’t a case of how I was ‘feeling’ and that it was fact. He eventually admitted that I was right about O2 taking the money from my account (albeit on behalf of this other company) but still said there was nothing more he could do.

After getting off the phone, I did a quick search and found I’m not the only one who has been ripped off by this scam. Here are some links to others in the same boat:

After searching PhonepayPlus, the regulators for products and services that are charged to users’ phone bills or pre-pay accounts, for 81404 I know the number belongs to:

Tanla Mobile Ltd
39 Charing Cross Road
Tel: 08719 180 999

The O2 guy told me it was for a service called SineQuiz which I guess they might operate. Both the PhonepayPlus and Tanla Mobile’s offices are closed right now but I’ll definitely be calling them next week – and I’ll be using Tanla Mobile’s London office number (0207 494 5600) rather than calling their 0871-RIP-U-OFF number!

I can’t believe this is allowed to happen. Can you imagine turning up at someone’s house with a letter and charging them £1.50 for it without giving them the option of refusing it altogether? Mobile technology has failed me. It should not be possible to get charged a premium rate for merely receiving a text message.

Update: 5 September 2008 (14:04)
I eventually managed to find out how this happened and actually got a refund. Read more in my next post here: Reverse Charge SMS: Refund Received

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iPhone 3G: It's the little things...

In my last post about my new shiny gadget, I pretty much pointed out reasons why you wouldn’t want to buy an iPhone 3G. I’ve now had it for just over a month and I’m still loving it. But why?

It’s so easy to take the iPhone for granted. Tasks like browsing the web, sending and receiving emails, writing text messages, taking photos and (this next one is shocking, I know) actually making phone calls are all relatively painless and can be done without having to trawl through various menu options on a tiny keypad or remember shortcut keys. But here are a few small features which have made me realise how much I appreciate all the little things the iPhone does. (Disclaimer: These features may also be available in other handsets but my old Nokia N73 didn’t have them.)

Corrective predictive text

Predictive text on most phones is pretty good. But if you accidentally press the wrong key, your phone is never going to be able to spell that word properly. Thankfully, the iPhone also guesses what you were trying to spell. This is especially useful given that there’s no tactile feedback when pressing the keys, so it’s quite easy to hit the wrong one by mistake.

I can’t spell anything

It’s not perfect by any means but it definitely saves me time when sending text messages.

One number, many contacts, no problem

Back in the old days when mobile phone address books just stored a single phone number against contacts, I used to have separate entries for e.g. ‘Jack’ (mobile), ‘Jill’ (mobile) and then ‘Jack and Jill’ (home). Then when mobiles started to allow multiple details to be stored against each person, I split them out so that Jack and Jill’s home number would be stored against each of their individual entries, meaning I had ‘Jack’ (mobile), ‘Jack’ (home), ‘Jill’ (mobile) and ‘Jill’ (home).

Of course, if someone called me from Jack and Jill’s home number, the phone wouldn’t know which contact it was so it would simply display the number which is completely unhelpful. What does the iPhone do in this situation? It tells me that Jack Spratt or Jill Hill is calling!

Jack Spratt or Jill Hill

Furthermore, if they have the same surname, it just tells me Jack or Jill Hill is calling:

Jack or Jill Hill

It starts to cheat a bit after that though:

Tony Ruscoe or 2 others

This is such a simple enhancement but it impressed me when I first saw it.

Integration with my Garmin nüvi 610T sat-nav

My Garmin has built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling. With my N73 hooked up, I had to manually dial the numbers I wanted to call from the sat-nav. Hardly hands-free calling. But with my iPhone, the Garmin can access my entire address book and recently dialled numbers, making it much easier to make calls.

Headphone-related niceties

Using the supplied headphones, you can pause and skip tracks. So if you want to listen to the real world around you or skip an awful album track, you don’t need to dig your iPhone out of your pocket.

If you’ve got music playing and you remove the headphones from the iPhone, your music is automatically paused. This is good because it means you don’t have to wake your iPod and stop it manually, and you don’t risk annoying others around you like you would if your music continued to play through the speakers. On a related note, if you do choose to play the music through the speakers, you’ll see that the iPhone has different volume levels for headphones and speakers. This is such an obvious feature but not all devices do this.

I’m sure there are lots more features I’ve forgotten about too. Whenever I come across one in future, I’ll try to remember to make a note (on my iPhone, natch).

If you’ve got an iPhone, which thoughtful features do you think makes it stand out from other handsets? Or are there any features that are annoying the hell out of you?

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