The crackdown on mobile in Europe continued this week as the European Union said it will continue to investigate hundreds of content storefronts for breaching consumer rules.
The organization said an investigation into more than 500 mobile content Web sites found that 80% of the retailers violated EU guidelines. Violations included unclear pricing information, failure to disclose information regarding subscription services and misleadingly using the word “free” to lure users to sign long-term contracts.
The EU declined to name specific violators, but said seven European countries will publish the names of the offending sites. Violators will be contacted by authorities, the organization said, and given the opportunity to correct problems or risk legal action.
“Far too many people are falling victim to costly surprises from mysterious charges, fees and ringtone subscriptions they learn about for the first time when they see their mobile phone bill,” said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. “There will be Europe-wide enforcement action to track down each of these traders. But we need to get a clear message out particularly to teenagers and children. . There are many reputable traders out there, but to be safe buying these services, check the fine print every time and make sure you are not signing up for more than you bargained for.”
Claims of fraud and misleading advertising have plagued the mobile content space for years on both sides of the Atlantic. AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel Corp. have each made headlines with content-related legal action in recent months, and Sprint Nextel earlier this year adopted a policy for content partners that ties revenue-share percentages to compliance with Mobile Marketing Association standards.
The EU’s move follows Tuesday’s news that the European Commission will propose legislation to slash the price of roaming SMS for consumers.