Consumer Rights Protection Centre (hereinafter – CRPC), on basis of Unfair Commercial Practices Prohibition Law (hereinafter – UCPPL) and considering both received consumer complaints and consultations provided, has initiated proceedings against SIA “SMS Solutions” (also known as SIA “CDR”) (hereinafter – Company).
Company carried out unfair commercial practice by selling mobile content paid subscription services, which are provided by the Company partners on homepages like lv.appliplay.com; lv.playbox.fun/; flirtavieta.com/; lv.gamistream.com/; mobiefun.com/lv/wclive; totomobi.com and others. (hereinafter – Service).
Company maintains and provides technical solution, which is used to both to order Services and to receive subscription charge from the consumers while Partners of the Company are providing the content of the Services.
Between January 1, 2022 and January 27, 2023 CRPC has received 30 consumer complaints and has provided 108 consultations regarding situations when consumers unknowingly activated the mobile content services. Considering the information provided by Latvian mobile service providers, more than 2000 complaints were registered related to content services supplied by SIA “CDR” during the period from 1st of January to 15th of September 2022.
When analysing the complaints received, CRPC found out that in most cases consumers did not know about subscription agreement conclusion. Only by receiving the bill from mobile operator, consumers have found out the subscription fact and additional charges. In some cases, consumers have not been aware of using the service for a long time, because usual charge did not exceed few EUR per week.
In some cases, consumers indicated that they have not provided their phone number to the Company or their partners. Also, consumers have not sent their PIN codes those are required for contract, and they have not received any text messages to connect the Service. When consumers addressed their objections to the Company about the services they did not order, no objections have been taken into account and no charges cancelled.
The way how company engages consumers and gets charges clearly demonstrates the use of so called “subscription traps” and “dark patterns” - hidden and inherently manipulative practices, those are hard to spot for consumers.
Considering findings made within the administrative case, CRPC finds the commercial practice implemented by the Company unfair under the provisions of UCPPL, i.e., commercial practices that is not in line with professional diligence, it is misleading and aggressive. Considering that commercial practice implemented by the Company is at risk of immediate and serious harm to consumers' economic interests, CRPC with the interim decision imposes the obligation for SIA “SMS Solutions” to stop unfair commercial practice immediately within:
- consumers are charged for subscription services they did not order;
- unfair and misleading technological solutions (“dark patterns”) are used to advertise, contract and pay for subscription services;
- both pre-contractual information and provisions of distance contract are undisclosed for consumers;
- no effective complaint settlement is provided in accordance with consumer rights and interests.
The decision may be appealed in the Administrative District Court in accordance with the procedures specified in legislative acts. The appeal of decision does not stop its enforcement.
The decision is available here (in Latvian).