back to article Watchdog relieves iPhone 5 scammers of £10k

A British company who offered "iPhone 5s" to punters has been slapped with a £10,000 fine by regulator PhonePayPlus, which ruled that the adverts for the non-existent phone were misleading. According to the judgment published today, the Bumbalee service run by Mobile Minded BV used "prizes" such as the iPhone 5 to lure punters …


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  1. vagabondo

    not detterrent enough

    The fine should reflect the expected return on the scam. £100k in addition to repaying the defrauded amounts plus 100% compensation would have been more appropriate.

    1. Toothpick

      Re: not detterrent enough

      Agreed. So they "estimated" they made between 50,000 and 100,000. Yet they only got slapped with a 10 grand fine. At least a 40 grand profit then.

      1. GettinSadda

        Re: not detterrent enough

        Yup - I'm starting to seriously consider running something like this to make some extra money. I can't see any significant downside as I can simply pay any fines out of profits!

        1. David Barrett

          Re: not detterrent enough

          I read it as £10k fine + full refunds.

          So there is no profit and they are £10k + operating costs out of pocket?

          1. Jedit Silver badge

            "I read it as £10k fine + full refunds"

            Full refunds to anyone who complains. Anyone who doesn't go through the complaints process will not get a refund - which many won't, as these things can be somewhat tortuous and not worth the effort for the sake of £2.

            1. Zombie Womble

              Re: "I read it as £10k fine + full refunds"

              These people take any potential financial punishment into account before they start. They know that by the time the authorities get involved they will have enough stashed away to cover fines and compensation with a tidy profit plus enough to start up their next scam on top.

              The only way to deter these scams is to either jail them or make the fines far larger than any possible intake..

            2. vagabondo

              Re: "I read it as £10k fine + full refunds"

              When someone writes something they shouldn't in a newspaper, the publisher and editor are held liable. (As in the Rod Liddle article on the Stephen Lawrence trial.) By analogy shouldn't the carriers be held responsible, and not allowed to profit from the proceeds of crime?

    2. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: not detterrent enough

      Damn right.

      The directors of this company should be up on fraud charges and looking at a 5 to 10 stretch.

  2. Bob Vistakin

    Thanks for the heads up, this looks worth it

    More reassurance scams work under this "government".

    "PhonePayPlus estimated that the scammers made between £50,000 and £100,000 out of the service. As well as the £10,000 fine..." Min profit £40k, possible £90k? Lemme guess, there's a tory minister sitting on the PPS board, Wonga-style.

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    1. P Saunders

      need to go further

      They should be forced to relinquish ownership of all redundant body organs (eye, kidney, hand, leg, ear etc) for donation; their families should be indentured into slavery for a period of no less than 3 generations; and all of their property forfeited to the state. I can think of no better deterrent.

  4. wowfood

    Bah, they'll just declare bankrupcy and re-open a new business called honeybee or something.

    People who run scam businesses should be blacklisted, yo bankrupt a business you aren't allowed to open one for another 10 years.

    Of course then they'd just get their wives / partners / close friends to open the new one for them.

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      BlackListing does take place I thought

      But people either give different names or put other people forward as Directors (Normally these people themselves end up completely screwed).

      I could be wrong and this comes from watching Cowbow Builders on 5 (God I watch some rubbish)

  5. Andy 36

    Not sure if profitable or not

    For every £1 premium rate SMS billed to a customer, the service supplier may only receive 80p at the most. Then there is the charge for the shortcode, typically £250 to £500 per month.

    They have to refund all punters, so if they had billed £100,000 of charges which need refunding, that means they need to find a possible extra £20,000 to cover the shortfall. Plus the £10,000 PhonePayPlus fine, plus administration costs for someone to write an awful lot of cheques.. If's possible that the aggregator that sits between Mobile Minded BV and the networks may withhold outpayments which means even more of their own cash they need to find from their own pockets. The only winners here are the mobile networks who get to keep all the revenue.

    You'd be surprised how unpleasant this can be for Mobile Minded BV, and quite rightly so.. It will either eat their profits from any legitimate revenue they made (if any), and they could even look to liquidate meaning customers may still lose out.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: Not sure if profitable or not

      > They have to refund all punters,

      NO, they only have to refund complainants

  6. Samurai Tony

    Greed is not so good.

    As the saying goes: A fool and his money are easily parted.

    A hundred and fifty quid of Morrisons vouchers? Mor___ons?

    A free iPhone 5? Before they are available? Click?

    It is usually only people's greed that gets them into these scams, another saying is: if a deal is too good to be true then it usually is.

    I have been offered many of these scams in my time and my common sense has ensured that my money has stayed firmly in my pocket and I end up amazed that people fall for them. </rant>

    I do agree though with Lui-g that the owners of said businesses should be named and shamed.

  7. Da Weezil

    .......and yet no disqualification for those involved in the scam from working in the premium rate industry in ANY capacity - which should be a default penalty. Moreover there should be a duty on the operator of the short-code/ premium rate number to ensure that such facilities are not abused. I became really sick of seeing the same "short-code network" being behind various scams a couple of years back - clearly the operator was creaming in the revenue whilst claiming hand on heart that it was their wicked wicked customers that were dragging the company into disrepute.

    This sort of thing is surely a basic criminal fraud... yet we see no European arrest warrants being issues to haul the perpetrators into our courts, a bit different to guys who set up sites that offer links to Tv shows... I guess the key is here its the public that are suffering a real financial loss due to fraud rather than some media company that loses some theoretical income from old shows (which they were already paid for on first run... second run... then on Dave... then on ...... Just proves again that the UK Government serves only the interests of business - even when they blatantly defraud the public.

    If you are going to run with dogs you will get fleas.... maybe it would help them be a little more selective about their clientèle rather than just creaming off the revenue derived from the scams ran on their facilities that they turn a blind eye to.

    Just close down the whole miserable premium rate sms mess... the industry itself seems largely unconcerned , the regulator is largely ineffective... so just close down this unproductive waste of resource and utlitiy

  8. John Geddes

    Refund just the COMPLAINANTS?

    Phonepay plus have always struck me as caring much more about the industry than the consumer.

    In this case, it appears they are only requiring reimbursement to those who actually complained. Why on earth are they not requiring the company to refund everyone who was charged for their service - automatically. Scamming large numbers of people for relatively small amounts works because people are too busy to bother complaining about small sums lost. And yet Phonepay Plus compound this effect by only requiring refunds to those who a) realise that they have lost money to the scam, b) realise that complaining might get them their money back, c) value their time at a low enough rate to bother to chase the possibility of getting a few pounds back, d) work out how to complain, e) follow through and actually complete the documentation required.

    Even then, as others note, the penalty needs to be a mutiple of the money scammed: £10k seems about as severe as slapping someone with a wet lettuce-leaf.

  9. Archibald Trumpetbeetle

    Why the hell doesn't the SMS protocol

    support some ability for the user to accept or reject a premium-rate SMS when each arrives at the phone, with a warning on the cost.

  10. Fihart

    Clue is in the name.

    Mobile Minded BV -- the BV indicates a Netherlands (or perhaps even Netherlands Antilles offshore) location. If advertisers were forced to display such info it would warn off some victims. As it is, I doubt if any money will be recovered by a UK authority.

    Advent of premium rate calls just signalled a free for all for conmen. What possible value do most of these services add ? And why do otherwise respectable phone companies participate in crime, collecting money for obvious crooks ?

  11. Jelliphiish

    the gullible elephant in the room

    see? there *are* ways to make money from FB.

    mine's the one with the pre-packed administration and fsck-the-creditors kit in the pocket.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This is fraud however you look at it. The company should be dissolved, the directors banned from being directors, and criminally charged with the hope of them getting a jail sentence.

    Letting the company get away with £40,000 in profits and a ticking off, is no more than an operating cost.

  13. Volvic

    Astonishing balls

    "When the promotion was selected, consumers were directed to share the promotion on their Facebook page and enter “Thanks” in the comment section."

    So not only scamming people but making them thank you for it as well? Impressive set of balls on these people.

  14. This Side Up

    £10 a week to receive messages?

    The suckers should be fined another £10 a week for being so gullible.

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Phonepayplus != "regulator"

    It's a trade association, funded by the premium rate industry and finally delegated a tiny amount of authority by Ofcom 2-3 years ago.

    It was originally setup by BT to avoid government intervention in the premium rate industry and its sole reason for continuing to exist is to shield the industry from government.

    It claimed to be a regulator a LONG time before it had any regulatory authority - and it has no power to do any of the stuff people are demanding - the scammers are more than capable of sticking up 2 fingers to PPP and all PPP can do is refer it to Ofcom.

    For similar rorts, see "Advertising Srandards Authority" (another trade association)

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