Two 'typosquatting' firms that created websites such as twtter.com and wikiapedia.com have been fined £100,000 each.
According to PhonepayPlus, the UK regulator of premium rate telephone services, the R&D Media Europe and Unavalley BV were deliberately taking advantage of consumers mistyping the addresses of popular websites. PhonepayPlus said the sites used the same logos, colouring and fonts as the genuine websites they were impersonating. Furthermore, the sites contained competition that offered prizes such as Apple iPads.
Consumers were asked to enter their contact details including their mobile phone number. However, they began receiving texts containing questions, which they were required to answer. They were charged £1.50 per text they received and the same again for any texts they replied to.
The regulator said the promotions had breached the Code of Practice and the firms had not provided clear information about pricing. The firms, which are both based in Amsterdam, were fined £100,000 and ordered to refund consumers.
"These judgements send a clear message to providers that they cannot play on the public's trust in well-known websites to promote services," said Paul Whiteing, PhonepayPlus' chief executive.
"We want consumers to continue to have confidence in the digital market place and we will do everything we can to ensure that they do. Most providers support us in this area as they recognise that this market will only grow if consumers have such trust."