UK watchdog PhonepayPlus fines two companies promoting competitions on misspelled domain names
Two typosquatting companies have been fined £100,000 each by PhonepayPlus, the UK watchdog of premium rate telephone services.
Spoof sites, including those of Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube, advertised competitions for iPads and MacBooks to consumers who misspelled the domain name of the site they intended to visit.
‘Claim your free iPad/iPhone/PS3’
R&D Media Europe and Unavalley BV, both based in Amsterdam, purchased domains like ‘Wikapedia.com’ and ‘Twtter.com’ and made the squatted sites look like the genuine versions.
Users would then be shown adverts which prompted them to enter their mobile phone numbers to enter a competition or claim a product. Texts sent and received would then be charged to the consumer at a cost of £1.50 each, with PhonepayPlus reporting that one complainant’s fiancée was tricked by a spoofed version of YouTube and consequently had to pay £63.
In addition to the £100,000 fines, each company has been told 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, in a statement. “We want customers to continue to have confidence in the digital market place and we will do everything we can to ensure they do. Most providers support us in this area as they recognise that this market will only grow if consumers have such trust.”
The type of typosquatting undertaken by R&D Media Europe and Unavalley BV very specifically abuses premium rate phone services in tricking users. More malicious sites can focus on infecting computers with malware or capturing sensitive data (like credit card details) through emails and forms.