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SERVICE-SPECIFIC GUIDANCE NOTE

Subscription services
PhonepayPlus
Guidance Note
Service-Specific
Subscription

Who should read this?


Any providers that are planning to offer subscription services.
What is the purpose of the Guidance?
To assist providers by clarifying PhonepayPlus expectations around the use of subscription
services, which are defined by PhonepayPlus as those premium rate services which involve
a recurring premium rate charge (with the exclusion of virtual chat services for more
information on these, please see the Service-Specific Guidance on Virtual chat services).
What are the key points?
The main issues for providers to consider are:



Consumers are to be made aware of any information that could affect their decision to
enter into a subscription service (as defined above).
Spend reminders should be sent once a consumer has incurred a charge of 20, and
at each charge of 20 thereafter.
Consumers must be free to exit the service at any time.
Unless prior permission has been granted, no subscription service should charge the
consumer more than 4.50 in any seven-day period.

1.

Consumer to be aware of all relevant information

1.1

All promotional material should clearly and prominently state any information that is
likely to affect an individuals decision to accept a future recurring charge. Providers
must take reasonable steps to ensure this information is prominently available, before
the consumer begins use of the service. Relevant information will likely include, but not
necessarily be limited to:

Confirmation that the service is subscription-based (i.e. use of the word subscribe,
subscription, etc.);
The total cost of the service (including any joining fees), any incremental charges and
when, or how often, those charges will occur;
Clear opt-out information (this is normally the STOP command for further details
please see the General Guidance Note on Method of exit from a service).

PhonepayPlus
Guidance Note
Service-Specific
Subscription



1.2

Where a subscription service is promoted by a text message or other communication


to a consumers handset, the promotion should confirm the consumer has not been
charged.

1.3

For more information on the promotion of subscription services, and advice on


particular issues such as the use of the word free, please see the General Guidance
Note on Promotions and promotional material.

2.

Subscription initiation messages

2.1

Previous editions of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice have stipulated that, upon
signing up to a subscription service (i.e. providing an auditable form of consent to
charge), consumers must be sent a free initiation message, before incurring any
charge for the service. This initiation message had to contain the same information as
set out in paragraph 3.1 below.

2.2

While the current edition of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice does not require that
an initiation message is sent to consumers who sign up to a subscription service,
we still strongly recommend that an initiation message is sent by providers offering
subscription services, after consumers have consented to the service and before they
are charged for it.

2.3

Level 1 providers who operate within the mobile sector of the PRS market may wish
to consider a contractual requirement on a direct Level 2 client to send an initiation
message as a useful way of ensuring that consumers have received the correct
information about a subscription service, before incurring a charge. However, for
the avoidance of doubt, sending a subscription initiation message does not replace
a requirement for the consumer to be clear about the cost of a service, either in
promotional material, or upon confirming payment in a payment mechanism, such
as Payforit.

3.

Spend reminders and termination of the service

3.1

Providers of subscriptions services must send any consumer participating in the


service a spend reminder, at no cost, once the consumer has incurred charges of
20, or each month, whichever occurs first. Spend reminders must be sent at each
charge of 20 thereafter, or each month thereafter, whichever occurs first. For the
avoidance of doubt, spend reminders are a requirement of paragraph 2.3.12(d) of the
PhonepayPlus Code of Practice and the specific information required is as follows:

The name of the service;


Confirmation that the service is subscription-based;

PhonepayPlus
Guidance Note
Service-Specific
Subscription

What the billing period is (e.g. per day, per week or per month) or, if there is no
applicable billing period, the frequency of messages being sent;
The charges for the service and how they will or can arise;
How to leave the service; and
Level 2 provider contact details.

3.2

In certain, limited, cases, the PhonepayPlus Executive will not enforce the requirement
on a provider of a subscription service to provide spend reminders as set out above
in paragraph 3.1. However, these are currently limited to services that send alerts as
to football or cricket matches (and/or results). This is on the grounds that information,
such as goal or wicket updates, is likely to be unpredictable, and the information
contained therein easily verified later, and so unlikely to be falsified by a provider in
order to create extra charging. Providers who wish to seek an exemption for any other
service type should contact PhonepayPlus before they begin to operate a service.

3.3

Consumers must be free to leave the subscription service at any time and no service
should imply anything to the contrary.

3.4

Where a consumer is subscribed to more than one service from the same provider
and texts the STOP command, providers should give the consumer adequate
opportunity to clarify their intentions. The provider should determine whether the
consumer wishes to terminate one, more than one or all of the services they are
subscribed to. Providers found to be causing confusion to consumers wishing to leave
subscription services may be found to have misled those consumers under paragraph
2.3.2 of the PhonepayPlus Code of Practice.

3.5

For more information on opting out of services, please see the General Guidance Note
on Method of exit from a service.

4.

Prior permission

4.1

Unless prior permission has been granted, a subscription service cannot charge
a consumer more than 4.50 in any seven-day period. For more information on
prior permission, please see the instructions on prior permission available on the
PhonepayPlus website atwww.phonepayplus.org.uk.

The role of Service-Specific guidance


Service Specific Guidance does not form part of the Code of Practice; neither is it absolutely
binding on PhonepayPlus Code Compliance Panel Tribunal (the Tribunal). However, we
intend for it to assist all Network operators and providers as to how compliance with the Code
can be achieved.
Providers are not obliged to follow this Guidance but, in the event of an investigation, a Tribunal
will consider whether the alternative actions that providers took delivered compliance with
the Code. We recommend that those looking to radically depart from this Guidance contact
PhonepayPlus in reasonable time ahead of launching the service.