What have tinned tomatoes got to do with mobile phones services? Everything, and here is why.
In pretty much any industry you know the cost of a product before you commit to buying it. When you buy an admittedly expensive £1 tin of tomatoes at the supermarket you go to the checkout, hand over the money and the transaction is completed. You don’t go home, wait a month and then receive a bill explaining that you have actually spent £20 on tomatoes this month. Yet, if this was the mobile industry you could expect a conversation along the lines of,
“Yes I know it said £1 for the tomatoes but that was a daily subscription service, entitling you to credits for £1 of tomatoes every day. Didn’t you realise tinned tomatoes were a product sold as a subscription service? If you didn’t want tomatoes everyday, then all you had to do was send STOP. You will of course lose your outstanding credits for tomatoes not yet consumed”
I like tomatoes but not every day of my life. A bolognese addict might be interested in this sort of offer but me, no. I buy tomatoes when I want them and I only have pasta once a week, if that.
I definitely don’t buy my tomatoes on “subscription credits”. It is inappropriate for the product. Subscriptions are about receiving something on a regular basis, like a magazine, or they are used as a convenient way of paying membership fees. Subscriptions are not credits to buy something that you lose when you cancel the subscription.
So why is buying tomatoes relevant to mobile phones services?
Well they are both sold to consumers. However, that is sadly where the comparison ends. The mobile industry has a different approach to pricing that is seemingly accepted by the authorities and which does much to damage the consumer trust in the industry as a whole.
88888 Mobile ringtone/wallpaper subscription
Take, as an example, some recent TV adverts where you are urged to text 88888 and a pre-fix in order to download one of the advertised wallpapers. They also offer ringtones.
My immediate reaction was that ringtones are an old problem that had now been cleaned up but then I checked out the terms and conditions on the 88888 website. Here it says,
You’ll get these 3 ringtones for just £4.50 per week. The weekly payment is conveniently taken from your phone bill automatically. You then receive coupons to redeem against the items of content that you want. We have a huge selection to choose from and the coupons for each club are outlined below. Don’t worry if you don’t use all your credits, any left over credits will roll over to the following week. By joining one of the clubs you will make a big saving on all your downloads. Your club will renew each week but you can stop your club at anytime by texting stop to 88 888 or ringing our customer service line on 0870 1213186 (national rate). Make sure you don’t waste your credits by cancelling though.
Since when did this service fit the normal and accepted criteria of a subscription service?
If you subscribe to something you should get something each week. Not credits. The credits described here are just a form of vouchers. In any other industry you pay for a set number of vouchers upfront. Fair enough they may be time limited but you don’t get automatically charged for them each and every week and then lose them if you cancel future subscriptions.
Just a case of rotten tomatoes?
It is little wonder that a large proportion of the public do not trust subscription services in the mobile industry when you see promotions of this sort, apparently endorsed by the regulators?
There is no way this sort of promotion would be accepted in the supermarket industry and it should therefore not be acceptable in the mobile industry either. We would like to see PhonePayPlus ban these type of subscription services.