European Consumer Commissioner
Ringtone scams investigation
Press conference speaking points
Brussels, 17 July 2008
I am delighted to be able to present to you the results of this EU-wide investigation into websites offering mobile phone services such as ring-tones and wallpapers.
This mobile "sweep" brings together for the first time, all 27 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Iceland, in a joint EU enforcement investigation. This is a very positive sign for the future as we know that in the online world enforcement cooperation among national authorities is the only way forward.
It is significant also because it is the first EU joint enforcement action to target m-commerce - in this case the internet sale of mobile phone related services.
The increased interaction between communication platforms such as internet, mobile phone and media devices is creating a new and innovative commercial space. We must ensure that this new environment works for consumers and is compliant with the law.
We have targeted the sales of ringtones and wall papers for investigation because of the large volume of complaints that have come into national enforcement authorities from citizens across the EU.
Consumers of all ages felt they were being ripped off and let down. They were sending a clear signal they wanted something done.
I am very pleased that Europe has been able to respond.
SO WHAT HAVE WE DONE IN THIS INVESTIGATION?
In June this year, enforcement authorities across Europe simultaneously checked hundreds of websites selling mobile phone ring-tones and wallpapers for compliance with EU consumer law.
They targeted three key issues that are letting consumers down:
THE RESULTS OF THIS MOBILE SERVICES INVESTIGATION ARE VERY STRIKING
We found that many sites had multiple problems:
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS AND WHAT CONCLUSIONS SHOULD WE DRAW FROM THIS?
The aim of this EU wide enforcement investigation is not fact finding or research.
The aim is to bring unfair practices in line with EU law.
Authorities across the EU will now track down each of the companies responsible for websites flagged as problematic. Companies will be asked to clarify their position or correct the website.
National enforcement authorities can close websites, fine companies or take them to court.
This is slow legal work and it takes time. We will report back on progress in the first half of 2009.
THIS ENFORCEMENT WORK WILL NOT BE EASY
The evidence is that this mobile service market is fragmented with large numbers of small and lesser known companies. The enforcement work may therefore be slow and 100% enforcement may be difficult to achieve.
We could expect difficulties contacting traders, and we have seen in the past small rogue traders closing sites only to open quickly again under another name.
THAT IS WHY INCREASING CONSUMER AWARENESS IS SO IMPORTANT.
Our central message today is that consumers need "watch out" when they buy these services online.
There are many legitimate companies selling mobile services but there are also scammers who will try to rip people off and hide the true cost of taking up any offer
We need particularly to alert teenagers and young children to be on their guard!
They should know that:
Thank you for your interest, I will be happy to take your questions.