The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) recently imposed several sanctions on Plus que PRO SAS. This signposting service unfairly charged its customers £2.50 per call, which connected them to popular high-street stores.
The service is barred from the market for two years, or until it manages to comply with all the sanctions set by the PSA.
Plus que PRO SAS offers an Information, Connection and Signposting Service (or ICSS), operating on a range of numbers starting ‘0904289514x’. It began operation in November 2016, but was not officially registered to the PSA until March 2017.
The company’s services were promoted on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It offered call-connection to different organisations, including famous high-street stores.
The PSA then received a complaint regarding Plus que PRO SAS, which prompted the authority to begin monitoring them. The PSA recorded several calls from January 2018 to November 2019, taking note of the firm’s handling of their services.
Additionally, the PSA also recorded the full consumer journey when availing themselves of the call-connection service through Bing in July 2018. The presentation of their website was also noted, both on PC and mobile devices.
The company failed to provide enough information regarding the nature of their services, as well as the costs users incurred when availing themselves of Plus que PRO SAS’s services. Some clients also stated that they would be charged while waiting for the service number to connect to the provider’s system.
In terms of the promotional material in use, the PSA’s investigative team took note of the phrase ‘phone number valid 5 minutes’ and determined that it did not clarify that a network access charge of £2.50 would be incurred on top of the £2.50 per call.
Plus que PRO SAS violated Rule 2.2.1 of the PSA’s Code of Practice, which refers to transparency and pricing. The company failed to inform customers of the charges they might end up paying when using their services. The code states that any promotional material should include relevant information such as costs, brand information, details on the service or product to be provided, and how it will be delivered.
Plus que PRO SAS were also found to have violated Rule 2.3.1 (on fairness) and Rule 2.3.2 (on misleading information). The company did not provide accurate and complete details of their service to customers, causing much confusion and frustration over the charges which customers had to pay. According to the PSA’s investigation, sixteen calls were connected to an IVR message in French. A translation later revealed that this message informed customers that the number could not be reached.
The service company was also revealed to have breached Paragraph 3.11.3 – relating to ICSS Special Condition 3 – wherein firms are expected to uphold compliance with a number of PSA-sanctioned obligations.
Additionally, the call-collection company failed to renew its annual registration in accordance with a schedule determined by the PSA. This constituted a breach of Paragraph 3.4.8 (on registration), and happened in 2018 – when the firm remained unregistered despite being sent reminders of its obligations in this area.
A tribunal was set to hear the case of Plus que PRO SAS in June 2020, and came to its decision in July.
Based on the initial assessment of the tribunal, the breaches of Rule 2.3.1, Rule 2.3.2, and Paragraph 3.11.3 (ICSS Special Condition 3) were considered to be ‘very serious’. Furthermore, their violations of Rule 2.2.1 and Paragraph 3.4.8 were also deemed to be ‘serious’ in nature.
The final set of sanctions imposed on Plus que PRO SAS include a formal reprimand served by the PSA, detailing the firm’s breaches of the Code of Practice. Furthermore, the firm’s call-collection service and all numbers connected to the firm have been barred for two years. However, it can return to the market once it has complied with all sanctions in a satisfactory manner, including the fines and administration charges imposed.
In addition, the company has been fined a total of £250,000, which includes paying 100% of the administrative costs for its breaches.
Plus que PRO SAS has also been ordered to provide refunds to every customer who wishes to claim monetary compensation. This refund should be served within twenty-eight (28) days from the filing of the claim, unless the company can provide evidence that such claims are invalid.