Investigative journalist Michael West has accused Optus and Telstra of being complicit in a “predatory multimillion-dollar billing scam”, centering around content subscription services, and this piece serves as a timely reminder to keep an eye on your mobile bill, and to be vigilant when clicking on ads and other things online, as it seems only too easy to accidentally subscribe to premium content rorts which may be very hard to get out of.
In today’s news, West’s story centers on supplier MIA Sphere Live and subscription to a service called “Youlaugh2”, which is apparently an ad-free viral video streaming service that’s advertised on Facebook, which makes it too easy to unwittingly sign up to premium content. According to West, one of his associates started receiving text messages advising of a $9.99 weekly charge for Youlaugh2, despite not actually signing up to the service:
“Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of broadband customers around Australia are unwittingly ‘opting-in’ to services by clicking on ads and paying $40 a month for content they never intended to buy.”
West says that Optus declined to respond to questions about its relationship with MIA Sphere Live, but did say that they require content providers to double-opt-in when adding subscribers to their service, and they had noted that Youlaugh2 had circumvented that process. As a result, Optus has suspended the service.
If you don’t have premium content barred on your mobile (and let’s face it, you probably should), you need to be very careful clicking around ads and other content, especially on social media. We’re not sure of the precise mechanic used to get people to unknowingly subscribe to stuff, but it’s a risk we’d rather weren’t there.
If you’re concerned about accidentally subscribing to such “premium content” subscription services by accident, you can call your mobile carrier customer service line and ask for all premium content billing to be blocked on your account. You should also ask for confirmation of this change to be emailed to you. We’ve got some information for the major carriers here:
- Telstra customers can click here to fill in an online form
- Optus customers can find instructions to bar premium SMS on this Content Services FAQ
- Vodafone customers can make the change online following this guide on the Vodafone website
- Virgin Mobile customers can dial 275 from their handset to block premium SMS (according to their FAQ, here)
Other smaller carriers and MVNOs have their own processes, which if you’re at all concerned, you can readily investigate.