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Cyta to reimburse SMS scam victims

CONSUMERS who unwittingly subscribed to a company’s expensive SMS service only to realise their blunder when they received an inflated bill will be glad to know they will be reimbursed by Cyta.

This involves Cyta’s customers who subscribed to WIN AE.’s service via free scratch cards urging them to send a free message to numbers 6169 and 6116.

They ended up signing up to bi-weekly SMS messages at a cost.

The company received a record fine of €200,000 this month by the Commerce Ministry and given the ministry’s decision that the company had misled its customers, Cyta decided to pay subscribers back for the months of April to June – the duration of the scam.

“We will credit our customers with the amount they lost by subtracting it from their bills,” Cyta’s Petros Charalambous told the Mail.

But once again he repeated that Cyta is not in a position to block these services, many of which originate from abroad.

Until fairly recently, Cyta did not permit services which charge customers for receiving an SMS message.

But the Commission for the Protection of Competition handed them a €3.3 million fine at the last quarter of 2010 for obstructing technological advances and damaging consumers with their actions.

This places the onus on customers to be vigilant and understand the terms of services they subscribe to whether online or by responding to unsolicited messages.

“If in doubt, don’t do it!” Charalambous said.

But children nowadays tend to carry a mobile phone and may not fully realise what they are doing.

The parents of 11-year-old Panos were flabbergasted when their son’s bill came to €75.

“We asked him if he joined any websites, joke sites maybe or games sites, but he’s been adamant he hasn’t,” his mother, Popi Michael told the Mail.

Panos said he only uses Facebook to play games which may have given third-party companies the right to use his phone number.

Although he’s wise to the pitfalls of joining illicit websites he had no idea that he could get scammed by text messages or websites using his phone number.

Asked if he would do anything differently in the future he said, “No, I would do everything the same.”

Customers, including concerned parents,  can block subscriptions altogether by getting in touch with a Cyta branch  or else can unsubscribe from all current ongoing subscriptions by texting 8888 with the message: 8888OFF all_lists.

By Poly Pantelides
Published on July 21, 2011

© 2009 Cyprus mail Ltd.