Although relatively rare, parents sometimes end up paying unexpectedly large phone bills and don’t know why.

    The Phone-paid Services Authority, the regulator, can step in when the problem involves premium rate charges, and the company charging you has broken its rules.

    Sometimes you can get your money back. But it takes a while to investigate and it can never be guaranteed. Staying informed and speaking with your children, is always the best way to avoid problems.

    The below are fictional, but are typical stories of problems the Phone-paid Services Authority has seen.

"My friend ‘liked’ it on Facebook…"

I started to notice charges on my son’s phone bill and he couldn’t explain where they had come from. I spoke to the regulator (PhonepayPlus) to complain and told them the phone number making the charges. They looked into the matter and found out that a quiz to win an iPhone, which cost £5 each time a quiz question was answered, was promoted on Facebook. In particular they found out that many people had seen posts in their Facebook ‘newsfeed’ that seemed like they had been posted by a friend. In fact they hadn’t been posted by the friend at all. They promoted vouchers for theme parks and videos. When I asked my son again, he said he did remember doing this. In the end I got the money back. Now my son is careful what he “likes” and clicks on Facebook, and he knows not to give out his phone number online.

“I thought the app was free”

After noticing a higher phone bill than usual, I started to question my network where the extra charges were coming from. They explained there was a premium rate charge on the phone. I couldn’t figure out why. I don’t call premium numbers and I doubted my kids would. PhonepayPlus, the regulator, told me that it was linked to an app on my phone. I spoke to my daughter about it. She said she had downloaded the game and although it was free to download, she didn’t realise there were charges to continue playing the game.

“I thought I had only signed up once”

It took me a while to realise that the money was coming out of the phone bill. I don’t really check it all that much. It was only when I did I noticed an odd charge. Looking back over the months I saw that this had been going on for a while. The number charging my phone was one of those short text numbers you see on ads. I searched the internet and found that I could look this up at PhonepayPlus.org.uk. It turns out that when I had let my son enter a one-off competition, he didn’t realise there would be multiple charges each month for receiving other stuff. I contacted PhonepayPlus and they took my complaint further and investigated the people behind it. In the end I got a refund which was great!