This isn’t just “monkey business” – it’s downright immoral

Good God, this makes me angry: “Monkey business lures children”.

I personally think that the 199 text “services” are a scam that should be declared illegal full stop, without adding insult to injury with this kind of thing. We knew nothing about these when we set our daughter, just starting high school and needing a way of staying in contact with Mum and Dad, with a mobile phone. She was taken in by a text messaging “service” and, before either she or we knew anything about it, had raked up an horrendous bill.

Looking in the fine print of our mobile phone account, it did mention “199” numbers, and the option of having these disabled, but it was not drawn to our attention. A huge amount of money went from us to someone we don’t know somewhere we don’t know for absolutely NOTHING in return. And this with a child under 13. When I looked at their website, one of the “terms of agreement” said that the person making the text calls had to ensure that the owner of the account knew about it – but what good is that? And how can one hold them accountable?

Answer is: you can’t. Check out this website for some other angry parents. A word of advice if you are getting a phone for your child: disable these 199 “services” at the time of buying the phone. We had “data” turned off so that she wouldn’t waste here money on the internet, but didn’t know about these.

As I said, such “services” should be illegal. Promoting them in the way described in this story should earn double time in the clanger.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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8 Responses to This isn’t just “monkey business” – it’s downright immoral

  1. Catherine says:

    oops before you pay the bill, maybe you should get some legal advice. You might be bale not to pay. A terms of service agreement is not the same as a contract

  2. Tony Bartel says:

    Another option might be to talk with Consumer Affairs and see what options are available to challenge this.

  3. David Kennedy says:

    David, raise the matter with the mobile service provider. If they won’t waive the charges, the next stop is the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s office. They are often able to negotiate a resolution with your service provider.

    • Schütz says:

      I did. They didn’t. They said that this was a matter between us and the text “service”. But they gathered the charges on behalf of said “text service”. I guess you are right, I should contact the TIO. But the bill needed to be paid or it would be extra charges for us. Bad all round.

  4. Susan Peterson says:

    Around here unlimited text is a 5 or 10 dollar a month addition to the basic plan. I had to add it because some of my kids text. Doesn’t your regular cell phone provider give you an option of adding texting at a small addition to the monthly fee?

    • Schütz says:

      Susan, the 199 text “services” are something completely different from your day to day texting. You get charged for every text you send and every text you receive, about $4-5 each. It is a scam for the unwarey.

  5. Susan Peterson says:

    I think we don’t have this scam here because all cellphone packages offer texting and the price is not high. So no one would succeed with such a scam. But texting is pretty much a necessity in teen life these days. That is, the teens consider it a necessity. So it might make sense to add it to your service.

    This other thing is playing on the gap between the teen world and their parents’ world. It is really a nasty thing to do. And isn’t it illegal for minors to sign contracts? I think you would have a good chance of winning if you could get it to court. Especially if they didn’t make their terms clear upfront to the users of their service, and also if it were clear that they were pitching these services specifically to minors.

    Susan Peterson

    • Schütz says:

      You still don’t understand what I am talking about, Susan. This is not something you get “on a plan”. This is what is called sometimes “premium text messages”. It is the provision of a so-called “service” via text for which they charge about $5 for each text to and from this specific “service”. It has nothing to do with plans covering day to day texting. In fact, plans do NOT cover this. They are always ON TOP of your plan.

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