These telecoms guys have an interesting new definition of the word "permission"; and it violates all ethical norms and codes of conduct. But that never stopped these companies from making a quick buck before.
I have finally figured out how it works, and how they "caught" me before. I remember on the day of the IPL Cricket final going to m.espncricinfo.com, the mobile site for CricInfo, to see what time the match would start. The site was overloaded, and very slow. I vaguely remember clicking on a display ad by mistake. It's an easy enough mistake to make, given how slow the graphics were loading. It was right at the top of the page, and I had scrolled down further already, but the cursor obviously hadn't moved yet. When this advert page appeared, I selected "back" and continued.
It turns out that purely by viewing this page, R14 was deducted from my phone account every 3 days until I noticed. I did not have to click any buttons, or agree to any pricing, or even be aware of what they were selling, if anything. Think of it as the virus of Internet display ads.
Last night I decided to retrace my steps, and see what happened. Using the built-in browser on my Nokia phone, I loaded up m.cricinfo.com and selected the "Live" cricket match. In this case it was England vs Sri Lanka. At the top and bottom of the page is a banner ad (from admob.com) that says: "Fun Mobile Videos Click Here". There is no indication of any cost involved before you click, and once you have clicked on the link the web site gets the MSISDN (subscriber) number from the phone. I have no idea whether the privacy geniuses at Nokia or MTN decided to give away my identity online in this fashion, but there you have it: it gets used for fraud without the phone owner's knowledge or explicit permission.
Later on, you might get a message from the robbing party informing you how to cancel your subscription, but by then the first amount has already been deducted. If the MTN network doesn't deliver the SMS, then that's just too bad. On 21st May I got no such message, so Morvec just kept deducting money until 7th June, by which time all my airtime was exhausted.
Last night I got a message after I clicked on the ad, and sent the "STOP" message immediately, but not soon enough for the MTN call centre to tell me today that another R14 had been deducted from my phone. So much for telling Opera not to subscribe me ever again. I guess they just aren't prepared to listen. According to the Morvec email I got:
Your cell number clicked on one of our banners via the mobile Internet and then accepted the terms and conditions [of] our wap page. Your number is automatically passed to us when you click on our Join button by the Mobile Networks.Never mind that there is no "Join button" on the ad to click on.
Scroll down & CLICK THE BUTTON RIGHT NOW & join the FUN!!
Bringing u great Games, Videos and more & great value, wallpapers and Screensavers cost jusr R10, Videos R25, Mobile Games R28! This is a subscription service charged at a minimum of ONLY R14 every 3 days which you can use to buy EXTRA content EVERY TIME - CLICK NOW ....
If billing is unsuccessful, retries for this billing cycle will be retried at discounted amounts and potentially on different days, by joining the service you are providing your explicit permission for this to happen. Cellmates has requested that your mobile number be made available.
By clicking Enter Here you confirm that you are joining the CellMates Club
For HELP please call 0800982175 or email email@example.com - sms STOP to 31927 or 31848 at any time to end
Surely the legitimate, legal and ethical way is to actually have a "Join" button that you would have to click on, that would initiate an SMS message to my phone, which would then require me to send the word "JOIN" to their servers? Of course it would! But these guys aren't ethical or honest enough to do that. They deduct first, dodge questions later, knowing that they can rip off a large section of the public without their knowledge. It would also be great if MTN would allow me to block these deductions, but since they get a cut, why should they bother about minor details such as breaking the law?
We understand your frustration, however, the Go Go Mobile service that you have been charged for is in no way associated with our company and service. We suggest that you contact the provider of the service directly on the 0800 number they have provided.
We do buy advertising through Admob so on some occasions you will see adverts for our service and on other occasions adverts for services unrelated to our company, which is clearly what has happened in this instance. Our service is fully compliant with all regulations - before you join the service it clearly states the price, it displays information on how to unsubscribe and it has our full contact details. If you DO NOT click on the 'Enter Here' button to confirm your subscription you will NEVER be charged by our service.
Please remove any reference to our service from this web page since we are not associated with the service you are complaining about. Please confirm when this will be done.
Update Friday 24th June: That "refund" Paul offered me has still not arrived. And Opera is getting a lot of complaints on HelloPeter too: 233 unhappy customers in the last year. Opera didn't learn from WASPA complaint #6868 where they were fined heavily. I hope they are fined heavily again, because they could go to jail if charged with fraud and theft. Maybe that's why they tried the "full and final settlement" con.
We think it would be far better to remove all references to 'The Mob Club' from your blog, not just strike them out, all you have done is visit our service terms and conditions landing page, you have never been subscribed or billed by our service. Frankly we don't like our service named under a headline of 'stealing money'.Well, [un]Helpdesk, I think the best way you can disassociate yourself from the bad apples of the industry is to stop doing business with the likes of scum like Opera Interactive. Then maybe you won't be so embarassed about who you are. But with a name like "The Mob Club" you clearly have no idea.
Content services use URLs whitelisted by the networks so you may well see many very similar URLs for different services despite the providers behind them having absolutely nothing to do with each other.
We generally have no problem sharing company details at all, but we've never billed you nor have you ever been a member of our services so have no reason to give out this information especially as your original complaint seems to be evolving, again we have absolutely no involvement in it all other than you navigated to one of our services terms and conditions landing pages via banner ads on the mobile Internet and we would rather be left alone and associations no longer made as there is nothing at all contentious relating to us.
So what would be really fair is for you to remove references to us as there is no reason for us to appear on your blog and then we can all move forward.
We hope you manage to resolve your complaint successfully.