Tech firm cleared of wrongfully billing web browsers for premium apps and services

CourtsBy Tom Tuite
Tech firm cleared of wrongfully billing web browsers for premium apps and services

A DUBLIN internet firm has been cleared of wrongly billing smartphone web browsers for premium services and apps.

Zamano Solutions Ltd pleaded not guilty to nine counts of breaching the 2013 EU Information Cancellation and Other Rights regulations. The case came after smartphone owners noticed charges for premium rate services and apps on their bills and they complained to telecom industry watchdog ComReg.

Opening the prosecution's case, Michael O'Higgins SC (with Christian Keeling BL) told Dublin District Court that online traders must clearly label content to make consumers aware before they make an order.

The buyer must be given the opportunity to acknowledge the order as well as their obligation to pay. The consumer also has to be given a description of the character of the service or goods.

The court heard some people were billed for phone apps, games and one service called “babe videos” which they insisted they never ordered.

Third party premium services providers are subject to a licence. Their offers consist of a wide range of services connected to events, games, ringtones and the provision or adult content, the court was told.

Mr O'Higgins said an online consumer should see a banner or button that needs to be pressed or touched on-screen to order goods. It must be labelled “order to pay” and easy to read. 

The prosecution argued that there was no chance for the consumer to review the order but that they clicked on a button and in a “millisecond the consumer has incurred a charge”.

ComReg called four witnesses who said they were certain that they had not subscribed to any services flashed on-screen in “pop up” ads and that they had never seen an order button. They were all offered refunds by Zamano who operate a “no quibble” policy in relation to complaints.

Defence counsel Shane Murphy SC (with Brian Gageby BL) argued yesterday/today (TUE) that a ComReg official had told the court in evidence earlier that screen-shots of log-files of the interactions provided by Zamano showed that there was an obligation to pay.

Dismissing the case, Judge John O'Neill said that having looked at the screen shots furnished to the court he did not believe they were unambiguous in so far as the consumer might be concerned.

However, he refused to make an order for ComReg to pay Zamano's costs.