The industry watchdog Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) imposed a fine and a ban on Salvatet Inversiones SL for seriously breaching four rules under the Code of Practice.
Salvatet Inversiones SL is a provider of Information, Connection, and Signposting Service or ICSS. This offer allows consumers to be connected to popular government departments and companies like O2, DWP, and Amazon.
Customers complained about misleading promotion materials and being unaware of the service costs. Some individuals alleged that they were billed hundreds of pounds.
ICSS service provider Salvatet Inversiones SL was found to have committed four serious breaches against the PSA’s Code.
Registered since 13 July 2018, Salvatet operates as a call connection service that enables consumers to be linked up to another company they choose to contact. The firm offers additional functionality in the form of call recording.
Salvatet Inversiones went live in August 2018 and received its first complaint just a few months after on October 2018. Several allegations stated that the customers were not informed of service costs and that the site’s promotional materials were misleading.
A 70-year-old lady from Abersoch, North Wales, reportedly got billed £135 on her phone bill after trying to cancel her Amazon Prime membership. The call lasted for only eight minutes. She stated the number was listed as a customer service line for Amazon.
She tried calling the ‘Amazon service line’ the next day, but unfortunately, her landline was blocked by her service provider for going over the contract. The lady later found out that she was connected to Amazon via a third-party service provider, Salvatet Inversiones, and was billed for it.
After 109 complaints regarding the call connection services of the firm, PSA sent compliance advice to the company, to which it did not make any move to assure the regulator that it intends to rectify the issues and make changes as necessary.
In May 2019, the PSA required Salvatet Inversiones to submit a response to the formal direction, which explains about the firm’s services in full detail. The regulator continued to monitor the company’s promotions in mobile and desktop, as well as call the dedicated service numbers.
The findings revealed that Salvatet Inversiones committed four grave breaches: Rule 2.2.7 (Pricing Information), Rule 2.3.1 (Fair and Equitable treatment), Paragraph 3.11.3 (Special Conditions ICSS 1), and Paragraph 3.11.3 (Special Conditions ICSS 3).
The first offense was based on a significant number of consumers implying that they were not aware of the price point. It was also deemed to have failed in providing vital service information and expected service. There were also some inconsistencies in the promotional material that could have confused customers further.
The PSA assigned the firm Enarpee to stand in as a consultant, and the calling connection firm was served a correspondence over email, warning it of the breaches.
Salvatet Inversiones was issued a formal reprimand by the PSA. It is prohibited from delivering or getting involved in all premium rate services for five years, beginning from the publication date of the decision. It would only be allowed to resume its operation after the company pays its fines and administrative charges.
The PSA also ordered Salvatet Inversiones to refund every customer who wishes to claim repayment of the high charges they incurred because of the service. The firm is expected to fulfil the refund within twenty-eight (28) days of the claim unless there is reasonable cause to doubt the customer’s allegations.
Furthermore, the company is expected to provide clear and valid evidence that it issued refunds satisfactorily.
Salvatet Inversiones is fined a whopping £1 million and a 100% administrative charge recommendation.
This incident and the PSA’s action show how the regulator is committed to ensuring that consumers are protected from fraudulent schemes and misleading services. Over the years, it has reprimanded several companies for breaching the Code of Practice and imposed sanctions to show that it is serious in setting a right and just market for customers and companies alike.