London, July 13: Mobile telephone ring tone companies have made at least '4 million from children who unwittingly sign up to premium rate subscription services, new research has claimed.
One in five teenagers aged 11 to 15 said they had lost more than '5 in phone credit after receiving tunes they did not ask for. The craze for ring tones, such as the Crazy Frog, has fuelled concerns that premium rate companies are targeting children.
Many teenagers buy tunes using their phone or over the internet without realising that they are signing up for an expensive subscription.
Once tied into a contract, children can be bombarded with junk texts and unwanted ring tones or pictures at a cost of up to '3 a time. By the time they discover they have signed up to a subscription service, many have run up huge bills.
A third of children surveyed by Tesco Mobile said they had become involved in a subscription service without realising. Two thirds complained that they did not know how to cancel premium rate subscriptions, while 23 per cent of mobile phone owners said they had paid for a ring tone that they never received.
The poll found that 63 per cent of 11- to 15-year-olds with a mobile phone spent pocket money on ring tone downloads on a “regular basis”. However, 35 per cent admitted that they did not know how much the tunes were costing them.
Andy Dewhurst, chief executive officer of Tesco Mobile, said: “Mobile phone ring tones have become increasingly popular with children. However young people and their parents need to be warned to watch out for hidden costs and being tied into a contract.”
Earlier this year ISCTIS said companies must immediately cancel a subscription service if they received a text message with the word STOP.
Under an industry code of practice, firms must also tell subscribers what they will get, how much it will cost and how long the service will last.