Zamano Solutions Ltd has 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 bills and complained to telecom watchdog ComReg.
Opening the prosecution’s case, Michael O’Higgins told Dublin District Court that online traders must clearly 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 apps, games, and a service called ‘babe videos’, which they insisted they never ordered.
Third-party premium services providers are subject to licence. Their offers consist of a wide range of services connected to events, ringtones, and the provision of “some form of sexual content such as naughty nurses and the likes”, the court heard.
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.
Counsel said the regulator received a significant number of complaints in response to how these premium services operate. In 2014, there were 3,911 complaints of which 1,827, or 47%, were referable to Zamano, said Mr O’Higgins.
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.
Siobhán McDermott told Judge John O’Neill that, on July 14, 2014, she received two text messages from a five-digit number. The message said: “Welcome to the app mobile portal,” and said she had seven days to click a link to click to get a Flappy Bird game app.
She said she did not think anything of it at first but when she received her phone bill it was higher than usual and it detailed 12 premium text messages at a cost of just more than €2 each.
When asked by Mr O’Higgins had she seen a pop-up banner with a button flashing on her screen, she said she had not nor had she purchased any app service.
Greg Geoghegan said he received two texts in July 2014 which also said: “Welcome to the app mobile portal” and offered him seven days to get his download. There was extra charges on his phone bill and Zamano later refunded him €17.50. He was sure he had not used the web portal.
Colin Michael McKeown told the court he noticed his phone froze on a date in December 2014. A box popped up on his screen and he was forced to restart his phone. Then were two text messages and he later got billed €15.
Zamano told him that while web browsing on his phone, he had clicked a banner promoting a game but he was 100% certain that he had not, he said.
Witness Michael Aherne said that, on a date in October 2014, he received six text messages within two minutes. He was later billed €12.18 for a subscription to a premium service he had not selected. He said he never uses his phone for online purchases.
In cross-examination with Shane Murphy, defending, the witnesses said they were certain they had not ordered anything.
Refunds were given or offered by Zamano. The trial resumes in July.