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Readers' PCs crippled by MBS porn billing

But is nuisance pop-up scam illegal?

When we see a spate of complaints in our online forum, all about the same company, and all posted in a fairly short space of time, I know that something isn’t right, and we need to investigate further. That’s exactly what has happened over the past few weeks, and the company concerned – Micro Bill Systems – has cropped up in several forum threads. The first MBS cry for 'help' dates from last autumn, while the most recent appeared two weeks ago.

It’s all to do with the way that MBS tries to recover money which it says is owed to its clients as a result of consumers accessing websites that work on a monthly subscription basis.

MBS is a UK-based company with offices in Leeds, Cambridge, and London, specialising in services to the internet industry. Among other things, the company provides subscription management services to clients who operate sites that traditionally have problems collecting money – online gambling and sex sites, for instance.

This is how the system works. Someone visits a site that operates on a subscription basis – a typical example is mysexworld.com. On the front page there are some images giving an indication of the site’s content, and a prominent ‘Get instant access now’ button, above which are some lines of text telling you that if you click the button you are confirming you wish to receive a free three-day trial subscription to the website, and that unless you cancel within the trial period you will be billed quarterly in advance on a recurring subscription basis.

Click anywhere on those words and you’ll see a full list of the terms and conditions to which you’ll agree if you hit that instant access button, and they are worth a read, I assure you. Ignore the lot, and click the button, and you have a three-day trial membership of the site. Bear in mind that you haven’t been asked to provide any personal details, no credit card number, no billing address, nothing whatsoever. You’re into the site, and have access to the content. Cancel your ‘membership’ within those three days and according to MBS that will be that – your membership is terminated.

Fail to cancel however and you might regret ever making that single mouse click. Shortly after the three-day trial expires you’ll see a pop-up bill appear on your computer’s desktop, telling you that you owe MBS £39.99 for your first quarter’s membership. If you do nothing the bill will keep appearing at regular and ever-increasing intervals until eventually your computer will be virtually unusable. The bills are being generated by software which has downloaded to your computer, and there’s nothing you can do about it, except pay up and cancel your subscription via MBS. They identify your computer by its IP address, which was logged when you entered the website involved.


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