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Millions of Brits have direct debits set up each month for their mobile and tablet bills.

These bills might be variable each month but, as long as they don’t suddenly go up hugely, we don’t often notice how much we’re paying out.

But sneaky companies are aware of this – and slide charges in for a string of services via your bill.

They’re not small change either, I’ve seen people end up with bill in the thousands because of services they signed up for with a text and didn’t pay attention too after.

Nor is it a small problem – in the past twelve months some 16,000 people have made a complaint to Resolver about a mobile phone issue – and numbers are rising by the week.

The problem comes because you can now pay for a range of subscription services through your phone bill  – things like like digital content, gaming services, music and film streaming or even just goal alerts for your favourite team.

In the past, it’s been easy to sign up to these services – but harder to understand how expensive they are or even realise you’re being billed.  

One of the biggest sources of complaint involves premium text charges.

If you enter one of those ‘text to win’ TV competitions or sign up for a free offer from a firm on the understanding they’ll text you every now and then, you might have unwillingly found yourself being billed up to £5 (or more) for a load of spam text messages that you don’t want.

Radio 4’s Moneybox recently highlighted a person who was charged £1,200 by just one service – and I’ve helped people who’ve been charged thousands more thanks to multiple accidental sign-ups.

Not all of the firms that bill you through your phone are as shifty as these businesses.

Apple, Google, the big streaming services and many more billion-pound businesses can charge you for services you’ve signed up to online through your mobile phone bill.

Yet I have many concerns about how easy it is to sign up for something that over time can bill you hundreds of pounds.

There’s a regulator for this industry – the Phone-paid Services Authority.

Last November they introduced new rules to stop these excessive charges.

  1. A two-stage sign-up process has been introduced. So basically, you have to confirm you’re signing up
  2. Businesses should be clearer that you’re entering into an agreement or a phone-paid subscription
  3. A receipt must be issued after every charge

However, as many people have told me, the confirmation and cancel options are often on the bottom of text messages.

Most people don’t even open unwanted text messages, assuming (often rightly) that they are spam and opening them will compromise security.

So it’s clear that warnings and options to cancel must be clearer.

Here are few tips on how to deal with dodgy firms:

Don’t ignore your bill – It’s likely that the vast majority of people affected by dodgy phone charges don’t know it. The charges might not stand out if you pay by direct debit and your monthly bill varies. Get into the habit of scanning through your bill and questioning unexpected charges.

Set an online password you’ll remember – Lots of us don’t check our bills because we’ve opted for online billing but can’t remember our log in details. Get your mobile provider to resend or reset the information, set a password you’ll remember and check each month.

Be a sceptic – Don’t trust ‘text in’ premium rate competitions numbers which can ‘mine’ your details. If you want to donate to a charity, check online to find out how you can make a regular payment that you can control. And if you’re using *ahem* adult services, don’t give out your details at all.

Make a complaint to your mobile phone company – If you explain that you haven’t authorised the payments, the business should block the charges and should consider a refund. If you don’t know how to get started, Resolver can help you for free.

Know your rights – Industry body, the Phone-paid Services Authority has introduced a range of rules to stop these excessive charges, but many people will have been billed for these texts or services for years.

If all else fails, you can take a complaint about a mobile phone provider to the ombudsman if they’ve failed to help you with your dispute.

So check your bill right now! You might find you’ve been ripped off – but you could also get your cash back if you’ve been overcharged. Get in touch and let me know how it goes.

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