Phone-paid Services Authority issues £375,000 fine to company that operated the Best VIP Games subscription content service

The PSA has issued a £375,000 fine to a company which operated the Best VIP Games subscription content service.

Inter Inventory Company had operated the service since May 2017 but had not registered it with the PSA, as required for any company operating in the UK phone-paid services market.

The service was promoted via adverts placed on other third-party websites. Consumers who interacted with these adverts were charged £4.50 a week to receive links to online games via text message.

The company was also found to have used affiliate marketers that used “content locking” to promote the service, a practice which involves barring access to a service until payment has been made via a platform operated by a third party. Consumers who had been trying to access content for popular apps, such as Pokémon Go, had been required to subscribe to Best VIP Games in order to do so, believing they were simply providing verification that they were a genuine user and not an automated system or programme trying to gain access to the platform: a “bot”.

The PSA Tribunal found that the service was misleading and had failed to treat consumers fairly, as is required by the PSA Code of Practice. The PSA found that consumers were unable to readily access the games portal they had subscribed to and were not sent any direct links to the games via text. The service provider had also failed to provide a quick, easy and fair complaints process, leaving many consumers struggling to query charges or request refunds. Finally, they failed to register the required service information with PSA.

Considering the severity of the breaches, the PSA Tribunal imposed a fine of £375,000. To read the PSA press release in full and for a link to the full adjudication, click here.