1. What are premium rate services?
Premium rate services, also known as Multimedia Information Services (MIS), are associated with the transmission of information/content through electronic communications networks. These services fit into the following categories:
- Purchases (e.g. ‘downloading’ games, ringtones, videos)
- Participation in TV game shows via telephone
- Adult services
- Weather forecast
- Astrology/card reading
- Sport news
Access is possible through calls or sending/receiving SMS/MMS messages to numbers starting with 901, 909, 806, 812, 825, 850, 875, 14, 190–195, 54, etc.
The charge is higher than charges for basic services. More specifically, it is higher than local call rates or sending a simple SMS message, while users of specific services may be charged for receiving SMS messages.
The cost for using premium rate services is directly charged on your phone bill or deducted from the balance of your prepaid plan. There are also subscription premium rate services to which users need to register – with or without charge. To register, subscribers enter their number on a website and send an SMS message, in which they give their consent for the registration. In these cases, billing takes place on a regular basis (for example, on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis) and may depend on the content that users receive or send.
There are 5-digit numbers that do not fall into the category of Multimedia Information Services (MIS). These numbers concern services of high importance for the general public, e.g. emergency aid for health-related issues, roadside assistance, citizens’ service, fault reporting. There is an out-of-plan charge, which is not included in monthly pay plans for mobile/fixed telephony and can vary from case to case. Before calling a short code, you are advised to refer to the phone company’s price list of call charges to short codes.
2. What should I be careful of when using premium rate services?
It is recommended that:
- Before registering your mobile number on a website, you should read carefully all terms and conditions of the service you are interested in and learn about relevant costs. Advertisements for free offers or participation in lotteries may lead to registration to premium rate services.
- You get detailed information about services provided or advertised through online/print media. In every promotional activity of services provided via SMS messages, companies must explicitly state the charges and in particular, the charge per SMS, the total number of SMS required for the provision of the service and the total maximum cost of the service (VAT included).
3. What are the main obligations of providers of premium rate services?
The following basic obligations apply:
- Customer helpline::
The provider of premium rate services is required to offer a customer helpline/complaint hotline at local call rates. Through this helpline, you can communicate directly with a company representative, at least during working days and hours. The helpline must be indicated in the promotional activities/advertisements of providers.
- General information
a. Premium rate services via phone calls: At the beginning of the call, the company is obliged to provide a free-of-charge recorded message with information about:
- The company identity.
- Prohibition on the use of the service by those who have not reached the age of 18, provided that the service is only addressed to adults.
An exception is calls to numbers of the 806, 812, 825, 850 and 875 series, from which the charge derives directly, e.g. for the numbers starting with 806, the charge amounts to 0.06 euro per minute or per call, for the numbers starting with 812, the charge amounts to 0.12 euro per minute or per call and so on.
b. Premium rate services via SMS/MMS: For premium rate services via SMS/MMS for which you are required to register on a website, the company must promptly send you an SMS message to which you have to reply, stating your consent.
After your registration, the company is obliged to promptly send an SMS message in which free-of-charge information about charges and unsubscribing methods from the service is provided (see question 7).
- Maximum duration of service provision – Maximum charge limit
For services via voice and the Internet, the company is required to automatically terminate connection after a period of 20 minutes so that overcharging is avoided. If the total monthly cost exceeds 20 euro/service (plus VAT), the company will ask for your consent via SMS.
- MIS table: The company posts a table containing all provided services and relevant information at an easily accessible location on its website.
- Complaint handling: The company is required to examine the complaint and reply in writing within a time frame of 20 calendar days. The full list of obligations for providers of premium rate services is described in the relevant Code of Conduct issued by EETT.
4. Which information should be included in an advertisement of a premium rate service?
In all promotional/advertising materials, the company must clearly and accurately include the following:
- Its identity (company name/distinctive title).
- Contact details (at least the customer helpline).
- A relevant indication in case of a subscription service.
- Full description of charges.
In terms of charges, there should be an indication, as applicable:
- either of the one-off total charge regardless of call duration,
- or the charge per time unit, as well as its conversion to euro per minute (plus VAT).
It is pointed out that television programs that present premium rate services via SMS for participating in competitions/gift offerings should display the amount of the charge throughout the program in a fixed position and not as a rolling caption (trailer). More specifically, in terms of SMS/MMS messages, the company is required to state:
- Charge per SMS.
- The total number of SMS messages required for the provision of service.
- The total maximum cost of the service.
- If services are charged upon their reception.
- In case of a subscription service, any registration cost and total cost per charge unit (e.g. cost of service per week).
It is pointed out that promotional SMS messages should make clear to users that replying to these messages can lead to the provision of premium rate services.
5. What are the charging methods for premium rate services? How can I find relevant information?
Premium rate services can be charged by:
- A fixed amount per call (e.g. 2 euro per call).
- A charge per unit time (e.g. 1.2 euro per minute).
- A fixed amount per SMS message sent/received (e.g. 2 euro per SMS message).
- A subscription (e.g. one-off payment of 18 euro or 12 euro per month). In this case, you can be charged with a one-off amount or an amount on a regular basis (e.g. per month) to periodically receive the service or to benefit from lower charges for a service you often use.
The amount of charges for premium rate services is not regulated by EETT, but is exclusively determined by companies, based on their commercial policy.
The amount you pay for these services is shared among companies cooperating for the provision of services. You may obtain information for the charges from:
- The information the company is required to promptly send via SMS/MMS.
- The price lists of the company through its website.
- Relevant advertising material (see question 4).
- The recorded message offered free of charge at the beginning of the call to all MIS services.
The Table which the company is required to post on its website, containing all provided services and relevant information (see question 3).
6. I called to participate in a competition and I was placed on hold for a long time. Will I be charged for the on-hold time?
You should not be charged for the on-hold time. The company is required to provide you with relevant information in advance. Where providing information is not technically feasible and provided that there is no available line, calls should be denied, and in any case, should be immediately terminated.
7. How can I stop being charged for an incoming SMS message for a premium rate service?
After completing your registration to the service, the company is required to inform you free of charge via an SMS message, amongst others, about how you can unsubscribe. Unsubscribing should be stated in a simple and comprehensible manner (e.g. send STOP to the short code from which you receive the messages of the service). For subscription premium rate services, relevant information is sent free of charge at least once a month.
If you are unable to locate or understand information about how to unsubscribe, request relevant guidance through the helpline/hotline indicated:
- In the information sent by the company or on its website.
- On the website of your phone company.
- On the website of EETT.
If you continue experiencing a problem, you may submit in writing a request/complaint to the provider of the premium rate service or your phone company (see question 10).
8. How can I block calls to premium rate services from my phone?
You may submit an application to your phone company to activate barring of access to all premium rate services or incoming chargeable SMS/MMS messages or specific numbering series on your phone line. You can look for more information on the website of your phone company.
9. I am experiencing a problem with a premium rate service that I used. What should I do?
Contact the provider of the service to resolve the problem (e.g. insufficient information about the service, disputed charges/registration) by calling the customer helpline/complaint hotline (see also question 7).
If you dispute the charges for premium rate services, ask your phone company to send you an itemized bill in print or electronic format for the period you are interested in. In this way, you will receive detailed information about all charges for premium rate services on your phone bill, including chargeable incoming SMS/MMS messages, as well as about the name/distinctive title of the company providing these services or the phone company which has allocated the premium rate number.
If the problem is not resolved, you may submit in writing a complaint to the provider of premium rate services, the phone company which has allocated the premium rate number or your own phone company. The company is required to examine the complaint and reply in writing within a time limit of 20 calendar days. Where an infringement of legislation is found, the company is obliged to not bill related calls or, in case it has already billed, to return the respective amounts.
If the problem is not resolved following a written reply, you may refer in writing to the bodies listed below, based on their respective competences:
- Issues regarding infringement of legislation on electronic communications and code of conduct: EETT.
It is necessary to include the written reply you have received and the material that confirms your complaint (e.g. itemized bill). It is pointed out that EETT is not responsible for the content of premium rate services and their provision.
- Disputed charges: Hellenic Consumers’ Ombudsman.
- Infringement of citizens’ rights by electronic means: Cyber Crime Division of the Hellenic Police.
- Infringement of privacy: Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE).
- Registration to premium rate services or receipt of advertising material without consent: Hellenic Data Protection Authority (HDPA).
- Issues relating to gambling: Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC).
10. How can I protect a person with disabilities or a minor against possible exploitation attempts when using premium rate services?
You can ask the activation of barring of access to all premium rate services, including receiving premium rate SMS/MMS messages, on your phone line (see question 8). In accordance with applicable legislation, companies should not take advantage of the weakness of consumers belonging to vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, only for the sake of profit.
In addition, in case of services only addressed to adults, companies are obliged to inform at the beginning of the call that these services may only be used by persons who have reached the age of 18.